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

OCTOBER 21, 2021:

TEXAS:

Why Did the Supreme Court Stop This Execution? John Henry Ramirez was sentenced to death for the 2004 murder of a convenience store worker.

For those of us with serious reservations about the death penalty, the Supreme Court’s last-minute stay of execution last month on behalf of a condemned Texas inmate came as a happy surprise. The court’s majority has been so unreceptive to death penalty appeals, particularly to requests for intervention on the eve of a scheduled execution, that any sign of attention to a death row inmate’s complaint is welcome.

Yet it is that very context that gives me second thoughts about the court’s unusual action in this case, set for argument on Nov. 1. Given the justices’ routine rejection of death penalty appeals, including during the Trump administration’s unseemly rush to execute 13 federal prisoners from July 2020 until just four days before President Biden’s inauguration, isn’t there something off key about the court’s sudden willingness to inject itself into this one?

What is it about John Ramirez’s case that makes it different, for example, from the case of Corey Johnson, whose IQ tested as low as 65 and whose lawyers argued that he was therefore constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty; or of Alfred Bourgeois, another low-IQ inmate; or of the mentally ill Lisa Montgomery, who strangled a pregnant woman and cut the unborn baby out of the victim’s womb? The federal government put these three and ten other inmates to death during what Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointedly labeled “an expedited spree of executions.”

Consider that in Lisa Montgomery’s case, the court, at the administration’s last-minute request, actually vacated a stay that a federal appeals court had granted, thus enabling her immediate execution. In the Johnson case, an appeals court had denied a stay by a vote of 8 to 7, a fair indication that there might have been something for the Supreme Court to think about before permitting that execution to go forward.

Whether the court should have ruled for these inmates on the merits of the issues they raised is a separate matter. My point here is simply that the court allowed the executions to go ahead without really bothering to consider the merits. Conservative justices often object when the court is asked at the last minute to stop an execution. “Last-minute stays should be the extreme exception, not the norm,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a 2019 majority opinion rejecting a Missouri inmate’s claim that an underlying medical condition would make lethal injection so painful as to be unconstitutional. Mr. Ramirez, convicted in 2004 of committing murder in the course of a robbery, was scheduled to be executed on Sept. 8. His lawyers filed the application for a stay on Sept. 7, and the court granted it the next day.

He is not at this point contesting either his guilt or his death sentence. Rather, his case concerns what will happen in the execution chamber in the moments before his death by lethal injection. Texas permits the presence of a spiritual adviser of an inmate’s choice in the execution chamber. Mr. Ramirez wants more than his pastor’s simple presence. He claims both a statutory and constitutional right to his pastor’s touch and to audible song and prayer as the lethal drug is administered. In other words, what’s different about this case, what made it stand out and what commended it to the Supreme Court’s attention, is that it’s about religion.

As to why this is problematic, consider the context. On Sept. 1, a week before the court granted the stay in Ramirez v. Collier, the justices refused a request by Texas abortion providers for a temporary stay of the state’s vigilante abortion law. That refusal allowed the law to take effect, all but eliminating the availability of legal abortion in the country’s second most populous state.

What’s the point of linking these two seemingly unrelated actions? It is this: While abortion has been a constitutional right for nearly half a century, no court apparently has ever deemed a pastor’s touch and voice in the execution chamber to be required by any statute or constitutional provision. The same court that evinced no concern for whether the women of Texas could exercise a well-established constitutional right suddenly demonstrated exquisite concern for a purported right.

True, there is always a 1st time for everything, and in fact, some states as well as the federal Bureau of Prisons do permit prayer and the laying on of hands as a matter of policy. The federal government informed the court in its brief that during the recent string of executions, “at least six religious advisers spoke or prayed audibly with inmates,” and there was some brief physical contact. Texas itself, which has carried out more than 500 executions by lethal injection, permitted both touch and prayer during the many years when it employed prison chaplains.

The state’s history on the question of clergy in the execution chamber is convoluted to say the least. Texas employed only Christian and Muslim chaplains when, in 2019, a Buddhist inmate sentenced to death requested the presence of a Buddhist spiritual adviser at his execution. The state refused, and the Supreme Court, over the dissenting votes of Justices Gorsuch, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, granted the inmate, Patrick Henry Murphy, a stay of execution. The court’s unsigned order told the state to permit Mr. Murphy to be accompanied by his own spiritual adviser “or another Buddhist reverend of the state’s choosing.”

In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that to avoid discriminating against particular religious denominations, the state must either permit clergy of all religions into the execution chamber, or none. “The choice of remedy going forward is up to the state,” he concluded.

Texas responded by excluding all clergy from the execution room, a policy that another Texas inmate, Ruben Gutierrez, challenged the following year. The stay of execution he won from a federal district judge was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Supreme Court vacated the Fifth Circuit’s action and sent the case back to the lower courts for further consideration of whether the state could justify excluding all clergy.

Rather than continuing to defend the exclusion, Texas yielded and announced in April that state-employed chaplains or outside spiritual advisers would be permitted in the execution chamber. But the state has drawn the line at touch and audible prayer. “An outsider touching the inmate during lethal injection poses an unacceptable risk to the security, integrity, and solemnity of the execution,” the state told the court in its brief. “Vocalizing during the lethal injection would interfere with the drug team’s ability to monitor and respond to unexpected occurrences.”

There are procedural obstacles that might prevent the justices from reaching the merits of Mr. Ramirez’s challenges to the current Texas policy; the state argues that the inmate failed to pursue his claims through the prison system’s administrative process, which is a gate-keeping requirement for prisoners seeking access to federal court.

If the court does proceed to the merits, it will have to decide whether either the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion or a federal law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act gives Mr. Ramirez what he wants. An execution chamber is a fascinating place for the court’s traditional deference to prison officials and its more recent deference to religion to meet.

But whatever happens following the Nov. 1 argument, Mr. Ramirez will have obtained something that few other death row inmates ever get these days: a Supreme Court audience.

(source: Opinion, Linda Greenhouse; (Ms. Greenhouse, a contributing Opinion writer, covered the Supreme Court for The Times from 1978 to 2008)---- New York Times)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Shapiro said he opposes death penalty

Pennsylvania Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro said Tuesday, during a campaign stop in New Castle, he supports abolishing the death penalty.

In an interview with The New Castle News, Shapiro said he would, as governor, sign legislation scrapping the state’s death penalty statute.

Gov. Tom Wolf imposed a moratorium on executions in 2015, but the death penalty law remains active, and local prosecutors continue to try cases under it.

“As attorney general, I've never pursued the death penalty," said Shapiro, the lone Democrat running to replace the term-limited Wolf. "I'd like to see legislation come to my desk to abolish the death penalty in Pennsylvania and sign it."

Shapiro was elected attorney general in 2016 and reelected in 2020, after serving in the state House of Representatives and as a Montgomery County commissioner.

This may be Shapiro’s first public statement opposing the death penalty. In 2016, while running for attorney general, Shapiro said the criminal justice system needed substantial reform, but that he supported the death penalty for the “most heinous of crimes.”

Anti-death penalty advocates in Pennsylvania applauded Shapiro’s statements to the newspaper.

“It's good to see a candidate for governor take such a principled stance," Akin Adepoju, board chairman of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said Wednesday.

Pennsylvania is 1 of 27 remaining death penalty states; 3 more states have abolished capital punishment in the last 2 years.

“The death penalty has been a failure,” Adepoju said. "It is applied more often to people of color and those with mental disabilities. It has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars that could, instead, go to crime victims and crime prevention measures, and it has increased the risk of executing an innocent person.”

Pennsylvania still has more than 110 people on death row. Nearly 1/2 are African American.

Since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, Pennsylvania has executed 3 people on death row and exonerated 10.

Securing death penalty convictions and defending them on appeal have cost Pennsylvania nearly $1 billion, reported former Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

When pausing executions in 2015, Wolf cited legal costs and capital punishment's failure to deter violent crime. He also said the law is discriminatory and unjust. Wolf, however, has stopped short of stating he favors abolishing it.

In a statement to the New Castle News, the governor’s office said Wednesday that Wolf “believes the system is flawed and continues to stand by the moratorium.”

(source: The Daily Item)

FLORIDA----female faces death penalty

3rd day of death penalty arguments in Marian Williams trial

The trial for Marian Williams has entered the penalty phase after a jury found Williams guilty in the arson fire that killed 3 young boys. The jury will now have to decide if Williams will receive the death penalty.

Wednesday marks the 3rd day of arguments in the penalty phase of the trial.

The defense is not calling 2 of the witnesses that have been listed. They will play a video from Williams’ grandfather before hearing from doctors.

On Monday, the state presented evidence and impact statements in support of the death penalty by lethal injection.

The defense brought out multiple family members of Marian Williams to speak on behalf of her character.

Closing arguments will happen Thursday and the jury will get the case sometime early in the day.

If the jury recommends the death penalty and the judge agrees, Williams will join 3 other women on death row in Florida. There are 302 men on death row. If they don’t recommend the death penalty, Williams is facing the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

(source: WINK news)

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Parkland shooter pleads guilty to 17 counts of murder----Defense attorneys turn their focus to saving Nikolas Cruz from a death sentence for 2018 shooting massacre at Florida high school

Nikolas Cruz has pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder for the 2018 shooting massacre at a Florida high school, leaving a jury to decide whether he will be executed for one of the deadliest school shootings in US history.

Relatives of the victims who sat in the courtroom and watched the hearing via Zoom shook their heads or broke down in tears as Cruz entered his pleas and later apologized for his crimes.

“Today we saw a cold and calculating killer confess to the murder of my daughter Gina and 16 other innocent victims at their school,” Tony Montalto said. “His guilty pleas are the first step in the judicial process but there is no change for my family. Our bright, beautiful and beloved daughter Gina is gone while her killer still enjoys the blessing of life in prison.”

Cruz, 23, entered his plea after answering a long list of questions from circuit judge Elizabeth Scherer aimed at confirming his mental competency. He was charged with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder for those wounded in the attack on 14 February, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, located just outside Fort Lauderdale.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime died in the shooting, said he visited her grave this week to ask her for the strength to get through Wednesday’s hearing.

“She was the toughest, wisest person I ever knew,” he said. “My daughter always fought for what was right. My daughter despised bullies and would put herself in the middle of someone being bullied to make it stop.”

In the solemn courtroom, Scherer read each charge aloud – along with each victim’s name – and asked Cruz how he wanted to plead. Cruz, in a blue shirt and black vest, responded with “guilty” 34 times.

Cruz’s attorneys announced his intention to plead guilty during a hearing last week, as they turn their focus to saving him from a death sentence. By having Cruz plead guilty, his attorneys will be able to argue that he took responsibility for his actions. Cruz addressed the court in a statement on Wednesday, saying, “I am very sorry for what I did, and I have to live with it every day.”

Anthony Borges, a former Stoneman Douglas student who was shot five times and severely wounded, told reporters after the hearing that he accepted Cruz’s apology.

“He made a decision to shoot the school,” Borges said. “I am not God to make the decision to kill him or not. That’s not my decision. My decision is to be a better person and to change the world for every kid. I don’t want this to happen to anybody again. It hurts. It hurts. It really hurts. So, I am just going to keep going. That’s it.”

The guilty pleas will set the stage for a penalty trial in which 12 jurors will determine whether Cruz should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. Given the case’s notoriety, Scherer plans to screen thousands of prospective jurors. Hearings are scheduled throughout November and December, with a goal to start testimony in January.

Cruz killed the 14 students and three staff members on Valentine’s Day 2018 during a 7-minute rampage. He had been expelled from Stoneman Douglas a year earlier after a history of threatening, frightening, unusual and sometimes violent behavior.

The shootings led some Stoneman Douglas students to launch the March for Our Lives movement, which campaigns for stronger gun restrictions nationally.

“Today, the Parkland shooter plead guilty to murder. We won’t have closure until our laws prevent these tragedies in the first place,” the group tweeted on Wednesday.

Since days after the shooting, Cruz’s attorneys had offered to have him plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, saying that would spare the community the emotional turmoil of reliving the attack at trial. But the longtime Broward state attorney Mike Satz rejected the offer, saying Cruz deserved a death sentence, and appointed himself lead prosecutor. Satz, 79, stepped down as state attorney in January after 44 years, but remains Cruz’s chief prosecutor.

His successor, Harold Pryor, is opposed to the death penalty but has said he will follow the law. Like Satz, he never accepted the defense offer – as an elected official, that would have been difficult, even in liberal Broward county, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2 to 1.

Earlier this week, the victims’ families reached a $25m settlement with Broward county public schools, which resolves 52 of the 53 negligence lawsuits filed by the families against the school district.

“It’s a fair and frankly remarkable result,” said attorney David Brill, adding, “It gives the families a measure of justice and accountability.”

(source: The Guardian)

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State to seek death penalty in Polk County bat, knife attack that left 3 dead

The state attorney’s office announced it will seek the death penalty for the electrician charged in triple homicide in Polk County from earlier this month.

A news release said the killings were “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.”

Facing 3 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of aggravated battery is Shaun Paul Runyon, 39, of Pennsylvania, who was in Florida working as part of an electrician crew for a contract on Publix property. He and others were staying at a home in Davenport when on Oct. 2, he carried out what Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd called “a predesigned plan to viciously murder” the 3 victims in the incident.

The sheriff’s office identified the 3 men who were killed as Kevin Lanusse, 41, from Pennsylvania; Dewlon Donell, 46, from Maryland; and Gregory Dolezal, 44, from Ohio.

“This is a cold-blooded, calculated, violent, murdering beast,” Judd said at a news conference earlier in October. “He planned in great detail how he was going to murder these three folks.”

Judd detailed the timeline leading up to the attack at a home in Davenport that left 3 people dead and 1 person injured. 3 others including a 7-year-old child escaped the attack unharmed.

“His intent as he told us in his confession was to kill all 3 victims,” Judd said.

Judd said Runyon had been in a fight with his supervisor as the electricians worked overnight on a job. The supervisor told Runyon he was not working fast enough, and Judd said Runyon hit the supervisor and then fled the site in a work truck.

The owner of the company told Runyon to just come home, Judd said. At that point, Runyon drove up Interstate 75 before arriving to Cordele, Georgia, more than 300 miles from Polk County. He then returned to Florida, dropping off the work truck at the Tampa International Airport, renting a car, and heading back to Polk County late Friday ahead of the Saturday morning attack, Judd said.

Shaun Runyon, 39, was charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery on Oct. 2, 2021.

Armed with the bat and a knife he already had in his possession, Runyon entered the home through the back door, heading to a downstairs bedroom where he attacked the supervisor with the bat, striking him in the head multiple times, Judd said.

Judd said that Runyon next headed upstairs to beat a 2nd man with the bat repeatedly in the head, killing the victim. After that, Judd said Runyon went to the bedroom of a third man and attempted to use the bat to beat him, but instead fatally stabbed the victim.

Judd said 2 of the victims were pronounced dead on scene while the supervisor who was the subject of the first attack was still alive, transported to an area hospital where he died from his injuries.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)

OHIO:

Munn faces death penalty as state allowed to proceed with murder trials

The state can now try Kevin Munn, 34, of the Afton-Elberon community of Warren County, for the murder of Nancy Alford after a judge denied Munn’s request to withdraw a guilty plea in her death during a hearing held in Warren County Superior Court last week.

Judge Henry W. Hight, Jr. presided over hearing nearly 4 days of pretrial motions for co-defendant Lester Kearney, 37, of Littleton.

Both men are accused of 1 st-degree murder and other charges related to a home invasion and fire at the Wildwood Point home of the Rev. John and Nancy Alford on March 9, 2018. The state is seeking the death penalty in both cases.

Hight’s ruling to not allow Munn to withdraw a guilty plea from April 2018 also affects a guilty plea to 1st-degree murder in the 2017 shooting death of Vance County businessman Tommy Ellington. The judge’s order allows the state to try Munn separately for Ellington’s murder, for which the death penalty can also be sought.

Members of the Ellington family were in court on Thursday.

Munn initially admitted to guilt in both cases in a plea deal with the state. He agreed to truthfully testify for the state at trial in the Alford case, cooperate with authorities in cases related to the death of Nancy Alford, and in exchange would serve 2 consecutive life sentences instead of facing the death penalty.

In May 2018, Munn filed a motion to withdraw his plea agreement, claiming his innocence in both crimes and unethical conduct by his attorney and collusion among the DA, his attorney and law enforcement, and duress by Kearney, due to threats, to plead guilty.

(source: The Warren Record)

CALIFORNIA:

Scott Peterson's former defense counsel touts new evidence: 'I really believe in Scott’s innocence'----Scott Peterson is back in court Wednesday as defense pushes for judge to decide whether or not grant new trial before his December resentencing

Scott Peterson, convicted of the 2002 murders of his pregnant wife and unborn son, is due back in court Wednesday, as the defense is expected to ask a California judge to decide whether or not to grant a new trial amid allegations of juror misconduct that caused the death penalty to be overturned.

At a hearing scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. PT, Peterson’s defense team is expected to ask San Mateo Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo to set a date for another hearing when she will ultimately decide whether or not to grant their request for a new trial.

Earlier this month, Massullo decided on Dec. 8 for Peterson to be resentenced to life in prison, and the defense wants the judge to schedule the hearing deciding about a new trial to happen before then.

"Logically, it would make sense for it to happen before any resentencing," Lara Yeretsian, an attorney on Peterson's original defense team with Mark Geragos in 2005, told Fox News Digital. "Once the court makes a determination, it also helps us to decide if there’s a need for a resentencing or not. If she decides he deserves a new trial, there’s no point in resentencing. Technically, the conviction is vacated."

"There is new evidence that Scott’s not the one. It will show who the true suspects are," Yeretsian said, declining to provide more specific details at this time, given she is not currently Peterson’s defense counsel. "I didn’t think he would be convicted the first time around. I really believe in Scott’s innocence based on the evidence I had seen during the 1st trial. I truly don’t believe he got a fair trial because of all the publicity and all of the emotions and visceral reactions of him having an affair."

Yeretsian said she was traveling to the San Francisco Bay area for Wednesday's hearing. Though not currently on the defense team, she might join if a new trial is indeed granted.

Prosecutors said Peterson took his wife's body from their Modesto home on Christmas Eve 2002 and dumped her in San Francisco Bay from his fishing boat. The body of his wife and the boy's fetus washed ashore in April 2003. In the trial, prosecutors also pointed to Scott Peterson's affair with massage therapist Amber Frey, who testified she did not know he was married.

"I think the atmosphere is a little better now. Time has passed and I’m hoping now we can ensure with the right jury to give him what he’s entitled to," Yeretsian said. "Let’s make sure he has an impartial jury and a fair trial and let the chips fall where they may. And hopefully they do fall on the acquittal side."

Peterson was sentenced to death in 2005 and had spent more than 15 years on Death Row. The California Supreme Court ultimately overturned his death sentence, downgrading it to life behind bars in August 2020, because jurors who personally disagreed with the death penalty but were willing to impose it were improperly dismissed. The high court maintained there was considerable circumstantial evidence incriminating him in the 1st-degree murder of Laci Peterson, 27, who was eight months pregnant, and the second-degree murder of the boy they planned to name Connor.

"I definitely agree with the overturning of the death sentence because clearly we did not have the right jury at that point because anyone who had any strong feelings against the death penalty regardless of whether or not they could put that aside and follow the law were just kicked off the jury," Yeretsian said. "They weren’t even considered as jurors. So we basically got a jury that was all people who believed in the death penalty. It should have been a mix of the 2."

Peterson has been appearing at court hearings through a remote link from San Quentin State Prison, home to California's death row, but will be present in person for his resentencing. His murder conviction was upheld, but the state Supreme Court concluded that the trial judge in the case "made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection that, under long-standing United States Supreme Court precedent, undermined Peterson's right to an impartial jury at the penalty phase."

Peterson’s defense team is seeking a new trial on allegations a juror committed misconduct by falsely answering questions during the selection process.

The woman, who co-authored a book on the case, eagerly sought to be a juror in the case and did not disclose she had been a crime victim, Peterson’s lawyers claim. Known as Juror 7, the woman did not reveal during jury selection that she had been beaten by a boyfriend while pregnant in 2001. She also didn't disclose that during another pregnancy she had obtained a restraining order against a boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, whom she feared would hurt her unborn child.

"At this point, we have a shot at a new trial because of the Supreme Court sending the court back saying there’s an issue here, one of the jurors was not completely truthful, she hid the fact that she was a victim of domestic violence – not just once, but twice," Yeretsian said. "There was a lot she should have been telling the defense and the prosecutions and keeping that crucial information from all the parties involved showed that she was a partial juror with an agenda."

"As soon as she walked into that jury room and replaced the one juror who was excused toward the end of the trial, very quickly the jury came back with a guilty verdict," Yeretsian added.

Wednesday’s hearing will address whether the Habeas Corpus counsel will remain on the case, and once that issue is resolved, to pick a date for the hearing to determine whether a new trial will be granted. The overturning of the death sentence has complicated who should represent Peterson, and the timing of the retrial decision. Defense attorneys who work for the Habeas Corpus attorneys may no longer be able to represent Peterson because by law they can only be involved in death penalty cases.

(source: Fox News)

OREGON:

Death penalty ruling doesn’t diminish Oregon voters’ role

Ellis is co-director of the Oregon Capital Resource Center, which filed an amicus brief in support of defendant David Bartol whose death sentence was overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court.

The decision whether to abolish capital punishment in Oregon belongs to voters. Neither the passage of Senate Bill 1013 in 2019 nor the Oregon Supreme Court decision earlier this month in the David Bartol case took the decision whether to retain or abolish the death penalty away from Oregonians, despite this newspaper’s recent editorial (“The death penalty debate voters didn’t get to have,” Oct. 10). That editorial reflects a shocking failure to understand what it means to live in a representative and constitutional democracy. The people are owed a correction.

In 1984, Oregon voters reinstated capital punishment via a ballot measure that adopted an amendment to our constitution, and voters are the only ones who can change the Oregon Constitution. However, the voters also made the choice not to embed the definition of aggravated murder in the constitution, and instead expressly agreed that the Legislature could change what crimes constitute aggravated murder and the definitions of those crimes. When the Legislature did so by adding new crimes – thereby expanding the number of crimes subject to the death penalty – there was no outcry about the subversion of democracy. That is because we elect representatives whose job it is to hold hearings and pass laws on behalf of the people. That is exactly what happened with SB 1013 in 2019. The Legislature did not make “voters largely irrelevant.” They did what they always do. They represented the people.

When the Legislature passed SB 1013, they stressed it did not by its terms overturn existing death sentences. Those assertions were completely correct. The Oregon Supreme Court’s decision does not construe SB 1013 to find some hidden retroactivity provision. Instead, the Oregon Supreme Court did exactly what courts are required to do. The court was required to measure the constitutional protection against cruel punishment by using the history of what happens after prospective repeal or reclassification of crimes eligible for the death penalty. What it found was that locally, nationally, and internationally, not one person has ever been executed for a crime that was no longer subject to the death penalty. This point was uncontested by Oregon’s top prosecutors, who were given every opportunity to prove otherwise. Guided by our constitution, our Supreme Court reached the same result reached by every American court reviewing the same or similar issue.

There were no “shortcuts” taken, as the editorial board claims. The Legislature passed a law, as it does every session. The Supreme Court then examined the constitutional implications of that law informed by history. Our representative and constitutional system of checks and balances worked exactly as intended. To suggest otherwise ignores basic civics. Neither the Legislature nor the Supreme Court caused “severe damage to civic health and trust in government.” If anyone is to blame for that outcome, it is the editorial board.

There are still several crimes that constitute aggravated murder in Oregon. Those crimes are still subject to the death penalty. The people still have an opportunity to decide whether to abolish the death penalty in Oregon by passing a constitutional amendment, just as they did in 1914 and 1964. I welcome the debate, which I hope will be fully informed by consideration of the decades of exorbitant costs, dysfunction, arbitrariness, and racism that continues to infect capital punishment. The people are best served when they are provided with accurate, not misleading, information.

(source: Guest Columinst, Jeff Ellis; The Oregonian)

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Julie Green, artist who painted prisoners' last meals, dies aged 60

Editor's Note This article was originally published by The Art Newspaper, an editorial partner of CNN Style.

The painter Julie Green died last Tuesday, October 12, aged 60, after a battle with ovarian cancer, the artist's gallery, Upfor, confirmed.

A professor of art at Oregon State University, Green created a poignant legacy that highlights the strange and soulful ritual for condemned prisoners on death row through "The Last Supper," a series of blue-on-white ceramic kiln-fired dishware with painted images of inmates' final dinner requests.

In September, Green ended the project, which spanned 21 years and 1,000 plates, to illuminate the complex emotional decisions of those facing imminent death, as well as the racial and historic implications of capital punishment in the United States. At the time of the artist's death, the first 800 plates from "The Last Supper" were on display at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington, where they will remain through January.

"The meals humanize death row," Green said in a 2020 statement for the Bellevue exhibition. Green's plan was to paint 50 plates a year until the United States abolished the death penalty, but as Green's illness progressed, the artist decided to conclude the series at 1000 works.

"Menus provide clues on region, race, and economic background," Green said in the statement. "A family history becomes apparent when (the) Indiana Department of Correction adds, 'He told us he never had a birthday cake so we ordered a birthday cake for him.'"

Initially, Green became invested in death row meals after noticing that news outlets typically make the last meal part of the story of an inmate's final hours. The dissonant power of "The Last Supper" is found in the intimate nature of the food, the classic cobalt pigment, the violence of capital punishment and the public as spectator.

Some plates were created the day of an execution, almost in real time. In other cases, Green combed records to identify last meal requests. One work shows the meals of two Black Mississippi teenagers, who, in 1947, received fried chicken and watermelon before being sent to the electric chair for murder. In cases where an inmate requested nothing, Green painted the word "None" or the text recorded by prison officials.

"I'm a food person," Green told The New York Times in 2013. "Food has always been a celebratory thing for me. That's part of why this whole thing is so interesting to me, because of the contrast."

In 2018, Green began "First Meal," intended as an antidote to painting death row suppers. Each work in the series depicts the first meal eaten upon release from incarceration for wrongful conviction. "Naively, I thought these paintings would be more uplifting," Green wrote in a catalog essay published by Upfor last year. "Of course, the meal is celebratory, but there is nothing compared to the lost years."

(source: CNN)

ZIMBABWE:

Time Ripe for Abolition of Death Penalty

Last week, on World Day Against the Death Penalty, there was a new attempt to build a religious and civil coalition for Zimbabwe to move from an unofficial administrative moratorium on executions to replacing the death penalty with non-lethal sentences.

Basically 20 years ago Zimbabwe stopped routine executions under the strict system already then in place, which required automatic appeal and a final Cabinet decision, and 16 years ago there was a single execution, for a murderer who had killed a prison officer as he escaped, a special circumstance.

But since then no warrants of execution have been signed and no one has been hanged although the courts have continued to pass the death sentence and confirm the sentence on appeal since judges are bound to uphold the law, regardless of what personal views they may have.

Legal amendments after independence removed the death penalty from a wide range of crimes, some capital offences dating back into the depths of Roman Dutch law and a whole swathe of crimes deemed capital offences by the settler regimes as they battled, totally unsuccessfully, to block the nationalist and liberation movements, basically by hanging a lot of political prisoners.

Between 1980 and 2001 just 76 people were hanged, all for what any rational person would regard as aggravated murder with the July 2005 execution for an ultimate aggravated murder. In all cases a proper procedure was followed that was deemed by legal experts as a way of ensuring that a wrongly convicted person could not be hanged.

The High Court trial, where every defendant had to be defended by a competent lawyer and was forbidden to plead guilty, saw the sentence imposed. The appeal to the Supreme Court was automatic. The judges had to prepare, in addition to the public judgment, a confidential report for the Executive that highlighted just how close the accused had been to a finding of extenuation. The Cabinet then made the final decision.

The reason for the final Cabinet decision, rather than just a ministerial decision as it had been in the past, was that a growing number of ministers were opposed to the death penalty. Zimbabwe was never "rope-happy".

In 2013 the legal process of abolishing the death penalty started. The new Constitution that came into force limited the death penalty solely to aggravated murder committed by a man between 18 and 70. Final remnants of potential execution for other crimes were abolished and women were exempted even for the most despicable murder.

During the consultations on the Constitution there had been a strong lobby to abolish capital punishment altogether, but groups of conservative people wanted it retained and the final agreement was about as far as they were prepared to go, where they drew their line in the sand. But it is now eight years later.

What has been happening since 2001, with just that one 2005 exception, is that every now and again the President, again on Cabinet advice, had exercised the prerogative of mercy to reduce the death sentences to life imprisonment, an administrative decision. More recently many lifers, including those whose sentences were commuted from death, have been released after 20 years behind bars. That, with the one-third of a jail sentence remitted for good behaviour as a standard practice, would be equivalent to a 30-year term. Older people may have got out a bit sooner under other provisions of the amnesty proclamations.

Our political leadership is opposed to the death penalty. President Mnangagwa, who himself had to sit on death row as a young man after taking up arms in the liberation war, has carried his detestation of the penalty through his political career. In public forums, from the moment when as Vice President he also assumed the portfolio of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, he made it clear that he would not as the responsible minister even ask the Cabinet to make a decision on signing a warrant.

On practical matters, with his amnesty proclamations, he seems to believe that a very long jail term for a killer is the correct sentence. When you murder someone you lose the better part of your adult life. No one would disagree. It is a terrible crime and the punishment must fit.

Interestingly, the leader of the opposition, Senator Douglas Mwonzora, is also on record as opposing the death penalty. And last week traditional leaders came out against the death penalty at the seminar, saying it was never part of customary law which was far keener on recompense than on retribution, the beggaring of the killer's family rather than the death of the killer being seen as a major and effective deterrent.

This sort of meeting of minds opens the door to Parliament taking action. There are two approaches. One is to recognise that the Constitution does not lay down that the death penalty must be imposed, only that Parliament can impose it only for aggravated murder by adult men under 70. The present law can thus be changed. But the potential agreement among all 3 groups of Parliamentarians, the two major political parties and the traditional leaders, appears to even allow a constitutional amendment.

One reason why some want to retain the penalty is pure revenge. That is ignoble and can be ignored. The second is that it is seen as a deterrent. However our Zimbabwean experience since 2001, once we adjust for population size and the growing percentage of adults in that population, suggests that this is not the case.

What does deter is the near certainty of arrest, and even in the most straightened times the police have been finding the resources to track down and arrest killers. We have very few unsolved murders indeed. Along with that certainty there must be a long sentence, a very long sentence. The combination of arrest and the best part of your life behind bars does work.

It should be possible for us to use the experience gained in some other countries where the standard sentence is life imprisonment, but the judge can lay down the minimum that must be served before parole, which means supervised release on something close to standard bail conditions, can be considered. And sometimes there is no minimum set, the judge wants a whole life sentence which means you stay inside until you die of old age. The worst killers get this.

It should not be difficult for our legal experts to start considering the possible legal amendments required that can transform the administrative decisions made over the last 20 years into formal law that can be used by the courts and give experienced judges, and it will still require the trial judge and the three appeal judges, the flexibility they need to ensure that a killer is suitably punished, that the crime is deterred, and that a dangerous person is kept out of circulation, 3 critical factors that must be considered. But it can also offer the possibility of redemption.

(source: Editorial, The Herald; allafrica.com)

INDIA:

62.2% inmates awaiting death penalty have at least one mental illness: Study----The report noted a UN General Assembly resolution in December 2020 urged countries not to impose the death penalty on individuals suffering from mental or intellectual disabilities

A National Law University study based on interviews of 88 inmates awaiting the death penalty has found 62.2% of them had been diagnosed with at least one mental illness and over 75% with deficits in their intellectual functioning. The study found correlations between death row incarcerations and mental illness. “The proportion of persons with mental illness and intellectual disability on death row is overwhelmingly higher than the proportions in the community population,” said the study.

The findings of the study titled “Deathworthy: A Mental Health Perspective of the Death Penalty” were released after 5 years of research.

“The big problem is that the death penalty sentencing process has been whittled down to such a formality that there is no time to conduct the kind of tests and assessments required to identify the disability,” said Maitreyi Misra, the lead author of the study.

The report noted a UN General Assembly resolution in December 2020 urged countries not to impose the death penalty on individuals suffering from mental or intellectual disabilities. “In the case of 9 prisoners, their disability was not even brought to the attention of the courts. Three of these 9 prisoners had their mercy petition rejected by the President,” said Misra. She added judges have the power to call for psychological evaluations.

As many as 60% of the prisoners were no longer on death row. But it was not due to the discovery of mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities, but due to sociological factors. “In none of the cases, mental illnesses were the reason for acquittal or sentence reduction. The grounds taken in commuting death penalty sentences were reformation, social-economic circumstances, or young age when convicted. But mental illnesses and intellectual disability were not factors,” said Misra.

B L Vohra, a retired Indian Police Service officer, said whether it is a physical ailment or mental ailment, prisoners are given the required care. “...only when a person is deemed fit, they are given the death penalty.”

(source: Hindustan Times)

OCTOBER 20, 2021:

TEXAS:

New Evidence Presented in Texas Death Row Inmate's Hearing

An attorney for a Texas death row inmate has told a judge that new evidence suggests the 19-year-old woman his client was convicted of killing may instead have been strangled by her jealous boyfriend.

Rodney Reed was convicted in the 1996 rape and murder of Stacy Stites in Bastrop, a rural community about 30 miles southeast of Austin.

Reed's attorney argued Monday before state District Judge J.D. Langley that new witnesses and forensic evidence support theories that Stites and Reed were having an affair and that Stites could have been killed by her fiance, former police officer Jimmy Fennell, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Reed, 53, has long said he believes Fennell killed Stites because he was angry about their relationship.

Prosecutors said none of the new evidence changes the facts of the case that led to Reed's conviction. Fennell has denied any involvement in Stites' killing.

New witnesses included Arthur Snow Jr. who said Fennell told him during a prison-yard conversation: "I had to kill my (n-word)-loving fiancee." Fennell had been imprisoned at the time for an unrelated kidnapping and sexual assault conviction.

New forensic evidence from multiple scientists who took the stand suggested Stites could have died during times that Fennell testified he had been with her.

"A new jury, hearing this evidence, would have a reasonable doubt in this case," said Jane Pucher, one of Reed's attorneys with the Innocence Project, a criminal justice advocacy group.

Langley said he hopes to make his recommendation to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals before the end of the month. The state's highest criminal court will decide whether Reed's conviction should stand, he should go free or deserves a new trial.

It halted Reed's scheduled execution in 2019, after his conviction was questioned by new evidence that his supporters said raised serious doubt about his guilt.

(source: Associated Press)

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Jury finds ex-nurse guilty of capital murder for killing patients at Tyler hospital

A Smith County jury found a former East Texas nurse guilty of capital murder in connection with the deaths of 4 patients at a Tyler hospital.

The jury in the capital murder trial of William George Davis, 37, of Hallsville, deliberated for about an hour Tuesday after roughly two weeks of hearing witness testimony and evidence.

Davis was found guilty of injecting air into patients’ arterial systems while he was a nurse at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital in Tyler, causing their deaths, according to 2018 and 2021 indictments. He is accused of killing John Lafferty, Ronald Clark, Christopher Greenaway and Joseph Kalina.

After about 2 hours of closing statements Tuesday, the jury of 12 Smith County residents left the 114th District Court just before noon to review the evidence and reach a verdict. They returned with a verdict around 1 p.m.

Judge Austin Reeve Jackson Tuesday morning read the charge against Davis and gave instructions to the jury. He told the jurors they have 3 options for a verdict: a finding of not guilty, guilty of capital murder or guilty of the lesser charge of murder.

Davis' trial began on Sept. 28 and the prosecution presented evidence for 11 days while the defense put on 4 witnesses over 2 days.

Davis told Jackson on Monday that he did not want to take the stand.

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty in the case. The punishment phase, where jurors will hear further witness testimony, will begin Wednesday morning.

Those convicted of capital murder face either life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

(source: Tyler Morning Telegraph)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Wake district attorney faces spirited challenge in March 2022 primary; Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman faces a challenge in the 2022 Democratic primary from defense attroney Damon Chetson. Challenger says Democratic incumbent is behind the times on issues like the death penalty and marijuana

For the 1st time since winning election in 2014, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman is facing a challenger in the 2022 Democratic primary: Damon Chetson, a criminal defense attorney who focuses on death penalty cases and high-level felonies in state and federal courts.

Policy Watch interviewed Chetson and Freeman about their stances on criminal justice reform in Wake County. Despite similar priorities for promoting diversity and reducing racial disparities, their approaches are different, especially regarding the death penalty, low-level marijuana cases and investigating police misconduct.

Although district attorneys must adhere to the structure of law and order, they nevertheless wield enormous power and “can reduce incarceration and more equitably enforce the law,” according to a study published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review.

Progressive district attorneys, the study says, tend to oppose the death penalty, reduce cash bail or refuse to impose it altogether. They might reduce the prison population and address racial discrimination in prosecutions, and try to eliminate police brutality and corruption. Rather than prosecution, these district attorneys often choose to pursue other routes for offenses historically targeting people of color, such as those related to marijuana possession.

Death penalty

Freeman’s office tried its last capital case in 2019. Seaga Gillard was sentenced to death for a double murder in a Raleigh motel near Crabtree Valley Mall, WRAL reported.

After the jury returned its verdict in the Gillard case, Executive Director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation Gretchen Engel said in a statement that the death sentence was arbitrary and disproportionately affects Black men; Gillard is Black. The death penalty had not been imposed in some other double-murder cases, nor in a case involving the murder of 5 people.

“Since taking over as Wake district attorney, Lorrin Freeman has pursued the death penalty more than any other prosecutor in North Carolina, costing taxpayers millions of dollars,” Engel said. “That is a poor investment, even in this case.”

Freeman’s office is again pursuing the death penalty for Gillard’s co-defendant Brandon Hill, the only such instance among the approximately 100 murder cases awaiting trial.

“At this point, the death penalty continues to be the law in North Carolina,” Freeman said. “As I have discretion in what types of cases to seek it, we reserve it for the most egregious.”

Chetson said that if elected, he wouldn’t seek the death penalty.

Police accountability

Case law requires prosecutors to disclose and turn over evidence that could lead to the impeachment of a government witness, including law enforcement officers whose credibility is in question. This evidence is known as “Brady” or “Giglio” material.

At an Emancipate NC criminal justice reform discussion held last month, Chetson said that the 1-page policy on Giglio material from Freeman’s office is not as detailed as those in other jurisdictions.

In response, Freeman told Policy Watch that her office turns over the evidence for the court to consider, rather than deciding whether to disqualify law enforcement officers from testifying, a practice adopted by other jurisdictions.

At the Emancipate NC forum, Robin Mills, whose son was wrongfully charged with heroin trafficking, confronted Freeman. Mills’ son was among 15 men against whom charges were dropped, according to a WRAL report. (Thirteen of the men settled a federal civil lawsuit with the City of Raleigh, which agreed to pay them $2 million, WRAL reported.)

Mills said Raleigh police detective Omar Abdullah should be held accountable because his informant falsified the drug reports. The informant was charged with obstruction of justice, and Abdullah remains on leave without a criminal charge, WRAL reported.

Freeman responded that her office has not received evidence that implicates Abdullah, therefore is not pressing charges against the detective.

At the forum, Chetson called for more police accountability. “There should be a walled-off group of prosecutors to investigate and prosecute police officers who commit abuses or are corrupt,” Chetson said.

Freeman disagreed. “To have the resources to have a specific unit to look at police misconduct is not where we are in reality.”

In the subsequent interview with Policy Watch, Freeman said local district attorneys can request independent investigations from the state Attorney General’s office. However, she argued that a district attorney accountable to their community can best handle police misconduct cases.

She stressed the importance of public trust in prosecutors, saying that her office sometimes solicits the help of the State Bureau of Investigation to meet with family members of victims in police-involved fatality cases to disclose findings from those probes.

“My hope is that in reviewing my records, the community believes that I can make those decisions appropriately,” Freeman said.

Low-level drug offenses

While both candidates stressed the need to divert low-level drug offenses, Chetson and Freeman suggested different solutions.

Chetson said he would not press charges in those types of cases.

Freeman said that marijuana cases should be handled on an individual basis, stressing that her office encourages eligible defendants who are 1st-time offenders — of either misdemeanor or felony possession — to participate in a diversion program. After the defendants go through a drug treatment program, they can ask for their charges to be dismissed. Those ineligible for the program will need to plead or go to trial, Freeman said.

However, she has publicly declined to stop prosecuting possession of substances, such as marijuana. “I do think that to give up on the opportunity … to connect people with treatment is a bad idea,” she said earlier at the forum.

Chetson argued that the treatment option is not available to everyone. These diversion programs still cost money and require defendants to admit wrongdoing in the deferral agreement, he said.

Chetson said he would not pursue low-level charges related to marijuana possession.

Freeman said her office is not dismissing marijuana possession cases outright, because it is still illegal. However, she acknowledged that the relaxation of marijuana laws in North Carolina makes enforcement more complicated.

“With the increased use of smokable hemp and the expected legalization of marijuana for medical reasons, law enforcement would be wise to prioritize other types of offenses when it comes to enforcement priorities,” Freeman said. “Our office will be taking that approach by continuing to stress education and treatment over more punitive outcomes.”

Cash bail

Some detainees charged with certain offenses are still legally required to post bail while awaiting trial. Defendants are refunded their bail if they appear in court, but some individuals can’t afford to pay upfront and must stay in jail until trial, which can be weeks or months later.

In North Carolina, magistrates normally set the pretrial release conditions, but prosecutors can influence them. According to Chetson, district attorneys can improve the bail system, which he called “broken” and “discriminatory along racial lines and class lines.”

“The DA is a very powerful advocate, standing before the judge and at a very early stage in the process has a lot of sway over whether the person gets detained or not,” Chetson said.

Chetson said the purpose of the bail system should be to protect the community and to ensure defendants show up to court.

However, he cautioned that before banning cash bail, its alternatives need to be studied more closely. Although the federal court system has eliminated cash bail, he said, the majority of defendants remain in custody, sometimes housed in private jails in other states without easy access to their lawyers.

Freeman said she’s been pushing the legislature for years to repeal a law that mandates those who have failed to appear in court at least once or who are charged again while on pre-trial release to pay double the amount of the bond set for the prior charge, or at least $1,000.

Both Freeman and Chetson stressed the importance of taking into custody only individuals who need to be detained, especially those who might threaten public safety while on pretrial release.

Freeman’s office has partnered with Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research to study pretrial policies. Starting in early 2022, her office plans to implement a screening tool that assesses individuals’ public safety risks to help magistrates determine pretrial release conditions.

Chetson criticized Freeman’s office for failing to reduce the number of people housed in the county jail during the pandemic, compared with other counties.

The Wake County jail experienced a 7% decrease in its population from 1,264 to 1,176 between February and November 2020, according to a UNC School of Government study.

Among similarly sized jails, in Guilford County, the population declined 31%, from 1,042 to 718. Mecklenburg County’s jail population, though only decreased, from 1,513 to 1,456, a mere 4% reduction.

However, Freeman contended that the Wake County jail population has a high percentage of individuals charged with violent offenses. She noted that Wake County historically uses citation rather than detention for low-level offenses.

Wake County does have a backlog in court cases, she said, because of an uptick in violent crimes and a suspension of in-person court proceedings during the pandemic.

Freeman said although her office has prosecuted some drug cases via jury trials this year, most of the cases have involved alleged murders and aggravated assaults. She said her office is prioritizing cases in which defendants have remained in custody the longest since the resumption of jury trials.

Chetson argued that murder cases in which defendants have been waiting for years should be prioritized. He said it’s a waste of taxpayer money to summon jurors for low-level offenses, such as possession of a few grams of marijuana.

Freeman neither confirmed nor denied doing so, saying that her office prosecutes marijuana possession as it violates the state law currently.

Chetson said, “Clearly in Wake County, a pattern for the last 30 years but particularly for the last 6, has been to focus on prosecuting people who are less well-off.”

Chetson said he would ask the General Assembly to reduce incarceration. He said he would create a post-conviction team to review old cases to identify excessive sentencing. To do so, he would tap into a state procedure — motion for appropriate relief — that allows prosecutors and defense to reach an agreement.

Freeman is opposed to reviewing sentences post-conviction for the purpose of reducing them.

“Sentencing laws are set by our legislature,” Freeman said. “To go back to review and redo each one of the those [cases] absent some reasons to do that is really setting aside the will of the jury and the judge and the system at that time.”

Freeman said her office follows the state post-conviction law that allows an individual to file a motion for appropriate relief. “To do otherwise would circumvent the law and existing judicial process,” she said. She added that the state allows “truth in sentencing” as prosecutors promise victims that the defendant will serve the court-ordered sentence. “Revising these sentences without legal reasons would undermine public confidence in the system,” she said.

Chetson lamented the underuse of the advanced supervised release program, which requires a district attorney’s consent. In 2010, the Justice Reinvestment Act laid the groundwork for the program and allows those with lower-level charges to be released early after completing risk reduction incentives while in prison.

Freeman said as she believes her office and other district attorneys’ offices statewide need more training on the program.

Drivers’ license restoration

“The Republican-dominated legislature has tried to fund the criminal justice system on the backs of poor people and people who come to court by raising fines and fees, and by preventing judges from waiving or forgiving them,” Chetson said in an interview. He argued that the court system should be funded by the general tax revenue and the state budget.

Chetson said district attorneys can also lessen the financial burden on people by dismissing cases or asking the court to waive or remit court fines and fees.

Those who fail to pay outstanding traffic fines or criminal court fees, or fail to appear in court to resolve a traffic ticket could face the consequence of automatic drivers’ license suspension in North Carolina.

Chetson noted that missteps for someone involved in the punitive court system can lead to grave consequences. “Because you cannot afford to pay a traffic ticket or because you forgot to come to court, you did not have an attorney who could not afford to hire one,” he said. “And when they’ll come to court you don’t know about it, you forgot about it and it’s a simple mistake, or you had to take your kids to the doctor that day, or you had to get to work and work full time if you miss work again, they were going to fire you and you decided to keep your job, rather than go to a court hearing, therefore, you’re not going to have a suspended license.”

Chetson said that in these cases, it’s almost impossible to recover a suspended license, without hiring a lawyer, or without pleading guilty to an offense that people might not have committed.

Freeman said her office has worked with the Wake County Public Defender’s office and other attorneys to help reinstate individuals’ licenses. “In many instances, we work out resolutions that result in an individual taking responsibility and paying fees in one case while we dismiss or agree to waive fees in multiple others,” she said.

She added that her office is working with the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court and the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center on a mass drivers’ license restoration project and will submit cases to court for approval.

“I do think we can play an important role in making sure that those [waiver and remission] processes are in place that help alleviate that debt to the people who are hindered by it,” she said.

Chetson said he’d expand upon the Wake County drivers’ license restoration program and dismiss old low-level traffic cases, such as speeding and driving with a revoked license.

The 2022 primary is scheduled for March 8.

(source: ncpolicywatch.com)

FLORIDA:

State seeks death penalty in ‘heinous’ Davenport triple murder

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a 39-year-old man who allegedly beat and stabbed 3 of his coworkers to death in the home they were sharing while doing work for a Lakeland Publix property.

In a news release sent Tuesday, the state attorney’s office said the killings of Kevin Lanusse, Dewlon “Dew” Donell, and Gregory Dolezal were “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.” The state also said the murders were “committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification.”

Shaun Paul Runyon was in Polk County working for J&B Electric, Inc., a Pennsylvania electric company, at Publix Supermarket’s corporate office, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

On Oct. 2, at around 2 a.m., Judd said Runyon got into a fight with Lanusse who was his supervisor, and left the area. A 911 call came to the sheriff’s office around 9:45 a.m., telling them there had been a murder in unincorporated Davenport.

According to the sheriff, the murders happened after Lanusse and Runyon got into a fight when Lanusse told him he wasn’t working fast enough.

The sheriff said Runyon had returned to the home the company had been renting for its employees with a knife and a baseball bat, then went inside and stabbed and beat several people. Seven individuals were in the home at the time, according to the sheriff.

“3 others, including a child, were able to escape the home and harm,” Judd said.

“He (knew) they’re going to be in bed asleep because they’ve been working overnight,” Judd said. “He (knew) their pattern.”

Authorities say Lanusse and Donell were asleep when they were brutally beaten with the baseball bat and were hit so hard they were never conscious during the ordeal.

Dolezal fought back but was fatally stabbed, the sheriff said.

“They fought upstairs, and then Greg was able to come downstairs onto the front porch where he collapsed and died,” Judd said.

Runyon is said to have also attacked another coworker with the baseball bat, but the man, identified in a police document as Witness 1, managed to escape from his assailant. That victim also had his wife and 7-year-old daughter in his home, but they escaped unharmed.

At the time of the murders, Runyon was out on bond after being arrested in Pennsylvania on May 21 on charges of strangulation, endangering welfare of a child, terroristic threats, 2 counts of recklessly endangering another person, assault, possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia, and harassment.

Runyon faces three charges for first-degree murder and one for aggravated battery.

(source: WFLA news)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Intellectually Disabled Alabama Death-Row Prisoner Appeals Denial of Stay of Execution, Arguing Designation of Lethal Injection Violated Americans With Disabilities Act

An intellectually disabled Alabama death-row prisoner has appealed a federal district court ruling that clears the way for his execution on October 21, 2021.

On October 17, a federal district court judge denied for a 2nd time Willie B. Smith III’s claim that putting him to death by lethal injection violates his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Lawyers for Smith on October 19, 2021 filed a motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to stay his scheduled execution so he can appeal the district court’s decision. Smith’s motion “seek[s] to prohibit the State of Alabama from executing him in any manner other than with nitrogen hypoxia.”

Judge Emily Marks’ over-the-weekend ruling on October 17, 2021, comes 2 days after the circuit court reversed her prior holding that Smith lacked standing to file a claim under the ADA. A unanimous panel of the appeals court vacated that ruling on October 15, 2021 and directed Marks to address Smith’s ADA claim on its merits.

Smith, who a federal appeals court agrees qualifies as intellectually disabled under accepted clinical definitions of the disorder, was convicted in 1992 for the murder of a woman he had robbed and abducted at an ATM machine. His jury voted 10-2 to recommend the death penalty and, despite the non-unanimous sentencing recommendation, his trial judge imposed the death penalty. Three states — Alabama, Florida, and Delaware — permitted that practice at the time, and Alabama is the only one that still allows it.

Smith is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection, Alabama’s default method of execution, because he failed to fill out a form distributed by Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) officials in which he could have designated an alternative method of execution. Per state legislation enacted in 2018, Smith and others on death row had 30 days from June 1, 2018, to choose whether to be executed by lethal injection or by execution nitrogen hypoxia. To opt for nitrogen hypoxia, prisoners who received the form needed to sign, date, and return a provided form. According to the Montgomery Adviser, several inmates received notice “a few days before the deadline and described a scramble to contact attorneys and understand the offer to them.”

Smith received this form, but his legal team says he needed—and never received—assistance to understand its contents and what to do with it. Smith’s lawyers say that his “significant cognitive deficiencies” qualify him for the protection under the ADA and require Alabama to provide him reasonable accommodations in designating a method of execution. Had those accommodations been made, his lawyers say he would have designated execution by nitrogen gas.

Alabama has begun building the physical infrastructure for nitrogen hypoxia executions, but does not yet have a protocol in place to carry them out.

Smith’s Intellectual Disability Claim

The Americans With Disability Act litigation is the latest in a string of controversial developments in Smith’s case.

In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the use of capital punishment against individuals with intellectual disability violated the Eighth Amendment’s proscription against cruel and unusual punishments. In July 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Smith’s appeal from the Alabama state and federal courts’ denial of his Atkins claim.

In rejecting Smith’s claim, the Alabama courts asserted that he had not met his burden of proving that his intellectual and adaptive functioning were sufficiently impaired to qualify for an intellectual disability diagnosis. Alabama denied the intellectual functioning portion of his claim on the grounds that his IQ score, unadjusted for measurement errors, was 72 — two IQ points above the state’s unconstitutional IQ cutoff of 70. It rejected his claim of adaptive deficits by unconstitutionally focusing on his adaptive skills and asserting that those skills outweighed his deficits. In 2014, in Hall v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly declared the use of IQ cut-off scores to be unconstitutional. Subsequently, in two separate decisions in Moore v. Texas, the Court explicitly stated that the focus of the determination of adaptive functioning is on the presence or absence of deficits, not on whether there are countervailing strengths.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed that Smith would be ineligible for execution had Alabama applied a constitutionally valid standard for determining intellectual disability. However, it permitted his execution to go forward on the grounds that Hall and Moore should be applied only to cases that had not yet been decided on appeal at the time of the Supreme Court decisions. Whether Smith could be executed, the court ruled, was purely “a matter of timing”: if he was tried after Hall and Moore had been decided, he would not have been eligible for the death penalty.

The Religious Freedom Claim

In December 2020, the Alabama Supreme Court scheduled Smith’s execution by lethal injection for February 11, 2021. After Alabama notified Smith that it would not permit his spiritual adviser to minister to him in the execution chamber, Smith filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Alabama’s refusal violated his rights under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), the Religious Freedom Amendment to the Alabama constitution, and the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The district court dismissed his suit and he appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.

On February 10, 2021, a 3-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit voted 2-1 to enjoin Alabama from carrying out his execution, finding that Smith was likely to succeed on his RLUIPA claim. Four hours after the execution was scheduled to start, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to leave the injunction in place unless the state permitted Smith’s pastor to be present to provide him religious comfort in the execution chamber. Alabama then announced that it was calling off the execution.

In June 2021, Alabama and Smith reached a settlement of the religious exercise issue in which Smith’s pastor will be permitted to anoint Smith’s head with oil, pray with Smith, and hold his hand, as long as the pastor moves out of the way before the execution team performs its consciousness check. The pastor will be required to remain in the death chamber until the execution is completed and curtains to the witness rooms are drawn.

The Americans With Disabilities Act Claim

In November 2019, Smith filed a federal civil rights lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of his execution by lethal injection and arguing that ADOC’s designation of lethal injection as his execution method violated his rights under the ADA. As his 1st 2021 execution date approached, the Eleventh Circuit on February 20 granted Smith a temporary stay of execution to provide the court time to consider his claim. On February 11, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that stay, but halted the execution over his religious exercise claim.

Over the summer, Smith asked for an injunction to prevent his execution by any means other than nitrogen hypoxia until his ADA claim could be resolved on its merits, setting the stage for the current litigation.

Limiting Witnesses to the Execution

Citing COVID concerns, Alabama has unilaterally restricted media access to the execution. While the state has allowed up to five media witnesses in the past, it is permitting only one reporter to witness Smith’s execution.

Paige Windsor, the executive editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, said the paper “object[s] to any laws, procedures or practices that limit press coverage of state business, particularly when that business involves killing a human being in the public’s name. Reporting on all aspects of these proceedings is how a free press ensures the public’s business is carried out as prescribed.”

DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham told Associated Press that the media serves an “irreplaceable function” as “the public’s witnesses” to executions. “If an execution is not safe enough to be witnessed by the full complement of reporters, the remedy is not to decrease accountability and increase secrecy by excluding media witnesses who would otherwise be permitted to attend,” Dunham said. “If an execution is not safe enough for witnesses, it is not safe enough to go forward at all.”

ADOC also attempted to deny Smith the 6 witnesses he was entitled to have at the execution. ADOC’s lawyers subsequently informed the court that Smith’s witnesses will be permitted to attend if they sign a waiver absolving ADOC of liability if they contract COVID.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

Alabama only state to limit media to 1 witness at execution

Alabama will be the 3rd state to carry out an execution during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be the only prison system to reduce the number of news media witnesses to a single reporter.

The Alabama Department of Corrections said because of COVID-19 precautions only one reporter, a representative of The Associated Press, will be allowed to witness Thursday’s lethal injection of Willie B. Smith. The state in the past allowed 5 media witnesses, although the number of outlets sending reporters is sometimes less than that.

Only the federal government, Texas, and Missouri have carried out executions since the pandemic began last year. None reduced the number of media witnesses to a single reporter.

There have been 19 executions carried out since April of 2020, according to a database maintained by the Death Penalty Information Center. All of them were attended by multiple reporters with the exception of one lethal injection in Texas where the prison system neglected to notify reporters it was time to carry out the punishment. Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the media serves an “irreplaceable function” as “the public’s witnesses and play a vital role in holding states accountable when executions visibly go wrong.”

“If an execution is not safe enough to be witnessed by the full complement of reporters, the remedy is not to decrease accountability and increase secrecy by excluding media witnesses who would otherwise be permitted to attend. If an execution is not safe enough for witnesses, it is not safe enough to go forward at all,” Dunham wrote in an email.

Paige Windsor, the executive editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, said the news organization disagreed “that the press restrictions were necessary for COVID mitigation, especially once a vaccine was available.”

“We object to any laws, procedures or practices that limit press coverage of state business, particularly when that business involves killing a human being in the public’s name. Reporting on all aspects of these proceedings is how a free press ensures the public’s business is carried out as prescribed,” Windsor said in an emailed statement.

The Alabama Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. The prison system wrote in a media advisory issued Monday that the number of witnesses were being limited, “due to measures necessary because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It is the same procedure and witness restrictions the state planned to use at Smith’s original execution date in February. That execution was called off by the state.

2 reporters witnessed the two executions carried out in Missouri during the pandemic. And 2 or more reporters witnessed the executions in Texas, with the exception of the May lethal injection of Quintin Jones. 2 reporters had been set to witness the execution, but a prison spokesperson never received the usual telephone call to bring them to the execution chamber.

13 of the 19 executions were carried out by the federal government. The AP served as the national media pool, providing coverage to other outlets, but local news outlets also witnessed the executions. An AP analysis earlier this year found that those executions may have acted as a superspreader event for COVID-19 infections.

Most states have not carried out death sentences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection for the 1991 kidnapping and killing of Sharma Ruth Johnson, 22. Prosecutors said Smith abducted Johnson at gunpoint from an ATM in Birmingham, stole $80 from her and then took her to a cemetery where he shot her in the back of the head.

Smith’s attorneys on Tuesday asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the lethal injection, arguing the intellectually disabled inmate could not understand the prison paperwork that laid the groundwork for the planned lethal injection.

Lethal injection is the main execution method used in Alabama. But after lawmakers authorized nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method in 2018, the new law gave death row inmates a 30-day window to select nitrogen hypoxia as their execution method.

L Nitrogen hypoxia is a proposed execution method in which an inmate would breathe only nitrogen, thus depriving him or her of oxygen, causing unconsciousness and then death. 3 states have approved it as an execution method, but it has never been used.

Smith did not turn in a form selecting nitrogen, paving the way for the state to execute him next week by lethal injection. The state has not developed a procedure for using nitrogen as an execution method, and at least for now is not scheduling executions with nitrogen hypoxia.

“I did not understand the Election Form because I’m slow and have trouble reading,” Smith said, according to a declaration filed with the emergency request for a preliminary injunction.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

High court rules Ohio's execution method not a normal 'rule'

Ohio's protocol as to how it puts condemned inmates to death is not a normal rule subject to the state's rule-writing process involving months of public comment, hearings, and legislative review, the state Supreme Court unanimously said Tuesday.

The high court rejected arguments from 2 inmates scheduled to die by lethal injection in 2023 — Cleveland Jackson, 43, formerly of Lima, and James D. O'Neal, 67, formerly of the Cincinnati area — that the execution method used by Ohio is invalid because it didn't go through that process.

"The execution protocol ... has little in common with the kind of edicts that we have found that fit within the statutory definition of 'rule'," Justice Patrick Fischer wrote. "...It creates neither a "legal standard," nor a "legal obligation'.... [It] does not expand anyone's functions or abilities; the obligation to execute death sentences by lethal injection is already conferred on [the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction] by statute, and the protocol 'is merely the implementation ... of a rule already in existence'."

Justice Fischer described the policy dictating such things as the specific drugs used, the inmate's "special meal," training, visitation, and the prisoner's last words as a 21-page, step-by-step "instruction manual."

"Executions are not routine occurrences," he wrote. "Since 1999, Ohio has carried out or attempted to carry out 58 death sentences.... An operation or procedure that is performed on average fewer than three times a year is hardly a 'day-to-day' occurrence under any definition. It follows that the execution protocol ... is not an 'internal-management rule' as defined in [state law]."

Jackson is on death row at Chillicothe Correctional Institution for opening fire, along with half-brother Jeronique D. Cunningham, on eight people corralled into a Lima apartment kitchen during a 2002 robbery. 2 girls, ages 3 and 17, were killed.

O'Neal, 67, was convicted of killing his estranged wife in Madisonville in 1993.

Lethal injection is the sole method of execution under state law, but the corrections department determines the means for carrying that duty out. The protocol has, however, been subject to court review.

While disappointed in the final outcome, O'Neal's Columbus attorney, S. Adele Shank, said the high court's decision was significant in that it upheld the standing of the incumbents to legally challenge the process and rejected the state's contention that DRC wasn't obligated to develop a protocol in the first place.

"The state argued that the case should not even have been heard, that the court didn't have jurisdiction because the state felt inmates didn't have the right to question the process being used to carry out executions," she said. "The Ohio Supreme Court said they do have standing, and it was a legitimate case before the court."

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's office, which defended the protocol, said it is reviewing the decision.

The lethal injection process involves the use of 3 specific drugs — one to render the inmate unconscious, the second to paralyze, and the third to induce cardiac arrest. But the process has not been used in then nearly 3 years since Gov. Mike DeWine took office. The last execution took place in July, 2018 under then Gov. John Kasich.

The state has struggled to obtain its preferred drugs because their manufacturers object to their use in putting people to death and have threatened to withhold those drugs from the state for other purposes. That has led Mr. DeWine to routinely issue reprieves postponing executions.

The governor has said that the death penalty's effectiveness as a deterrent against crime has waned. He has suggested lawmakers might consider an alternative method, but he has not led the way developing one.

(source: The Toledo Blade)

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

At 96, Lake County rapist is the oldest inmate in Ohio’s prisons: See the 10 oldest

Roy Schrock, at the age of 96, is the oldest inmate in an Ohio prison system that is filling up with geriatric felons.

Schrock, of Lake County, was sentenced to life in prison in 1989 for sexual assaults. He is part of a trend of older inmates serving longer sentences in a system of more than 43,000 inmates. In 2011, about 1 in 8 inmates was older than 50. Today, it is about 1 in 5, records show.

The jump in older prisoners stems from several causes. Some point to a spike in life sentences doled out in the 1980s and 1990s. Others cite the increasingly popular option of life without parole in death-penalty cases. The number of those sentenced to die in prison – and not in the execution chamber – has more than doubled over the past decade, going from 351 in 2011 to 738 today.

Many inmates, like Schrock, have been given long sentences after being convicted of heinous crimes.

The increase in the number of geriatric inmates in Ohio comes as some advocates have pushed for their release, citing the cost of care and the fact that recidivism rates drop dramatically after a person reaches 50 years old. Advocates claim the state spends millions of dollars each year caring for old men and women who are too feeble to commit another crime.

“This is not to absolve anyone for what he or she has done,” said Piet van Lier, a senior researcher at Policy Matters Ohio. “When you see old men [in prison] in wheelchairs and using walkers, you have to wonder: Who is this benefitting?”

The push to release older inmates has been heightened by the pandemic, which has killed 136 inmates and 13 staffers in Ohio. Some of the state’s oldest and weakest inmates are in the Franklin Medical Center, the prison’s health-care center. Some geriatric inmates have died from the coronavirus, including James Frazier, who had been the oldest inmate on death row when he passed away in November.

The 10 oldest state inmates, prison records show:

1. Roy Schrock, 96, of Lake County. He was convicted by a jury of rape, kidnapping and gross sexual imposition. He was sentenced for abusing a child under the age of 13. He is serving his life term at the Marion Correctional Institution.

2. David Tilley, 94, of Athens County. He pleaded guilty to murder in the slaying of his wife, Hope, according to published reports. He was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison and has been behind bars since November 2010, serving his sentence at the Franklin Medical Center. His next parole hearing is in 2028.

3. Albert Moore, 92, of Warren County. He pleaded guilty to rape and gross sexual imposition. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and has been behind bars since October 2012, serving his sentence at the Allen Correctional Institution. His next parole hearing is in 2027.

4. Leon Hayes, 90, of Hamilton County. He was convicted of aggravated murder, aggravated arson, felonious assault and attempted involuntary manslaughter, according to prison records. He was sentenced to 20 years to life and has been behind bars since October 1980. He is serving his sentence at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution. His next parole hearing is in July.

5. Jessie Lane, 90, of Cleveland. A jury convicted him of killing his wife in 2005, and he was sentenced to 18 years to life. He is serving his sentence at the Marion Correctional Institution. His 1st parole hearing is in 2023.

6. Roy Buchanan, 89, of Lorain County. A jury convicted him of rape and gross sexual imposition involving a child under the age of 13. He was sentenced to 15 to 150 years in prison in 2005, and he is serving the term in the Allen Correctional Institution. His next parole hearing is in 2025.

7. James Pavisich, 89, of Mantua. He pleaded guilty to three counts of rape involving children. He was sentenced to 30 years to life in 2011, and he is serving his sentence at the Southeastern Correctional Institution. His 1st parole hearing is in 2041.

8. Edna Finley, 88, of Clark County. A jury convicted her of killing her daughter-in-law, and she has been incarcerated since 1996, serving her sentence at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville. Her 1st parole hearing is in 2026.

9. Robert Law, 88, of Medina County. He pleaded guilty to rape and gross sexual imposition of children, and he has been in prison since 2014. He is serving his sentence at the Belmont Correctional Institution. His 1st parole hearing is in 2025.

10. James Ruppert, 87, of Butler County. He was convicted in the slayings of 11 family members in Hamilton in 1975. He is serving life sentences at the Franklin Medical Center and has been in prison since 1982. His next parole hearing will be in 2025.

(source: cleveland.com)

OKLAHOMA:

An innocent man awaits his execution in Oklahoma----Julius Jones is scheduled to be executed for a crime he did not commit

At the moment of writing this, Julius Jones has 32 days until his execution. An innocent man was convicted of a crime he did not commit.

Jones never stood a chance of a fair trial. The state of Oklahoma didn’t need a trial to decide that a Black man committed this crime.

On the night of July 28, 1999, Jones’ life was abruptly altered. Paul Howell, a well-liked white man, in a predominantly white neighborhood, was murdered.

Without a 2nd thought, then District Attorney Bob Macy claimed it was a violent act committed by Black men, which was caused by drugs. This was not the case, it was a carjacking gone wrong. This was now the false narrative presented through the news which did not shift.

Jones’ race has everything to do with this case. Considering the racial bias against him, there was never a chance for him to walk free.

The officer who arrested Jones called him the n-word and provoked him to run so he could shoot him on site.

11 out of the 12 jurors at the trial were white. A white juror outwardly called Mr. Jones the n-word and prompted that he should be taken outside the courthouse and shot.

Jones had an alibi the night of the murder and he did not match the description the eyewitness made of the killer. Christopher Jordan, a key witness who claimed to be the getaway driver, has confessed to multiple people on several occasions that he is the real killer.

Even with additional evidence proving his innocence, Jones remains in a cell awaiting his death. His lawyers neglected to call him or his family to the stand never reported information that could have exonerated him and never presented his alibi.

The victim’s widow has now made statements of his innocence and with the evidence provided believes he should be exonerated.

How much more brutality will it take to strike change in legislation and end the imprisonment of people of color for profit?

The legal system failed Jones and countless other Black men just like him. Oklahoma is an intolerant state with intolerant people residing in it. The Tulsa Race Riot proves how far the government will go to cover up Black trauma and the loss of innocent lives.

Today, District Attorney David Prater is working to cover up the misconduct in his very own office. He is taking extraordinary measures to ensure the silence of Jones and his family.

The death penalty does the opposite of justice. Taking the life of another person doesn’t bring back the dead. It is an endless cycle of death that leaves no room for rehabilitation.

Jones was on a path to success until his life was ruined by the “justice” system. His race determined his fate and led to twenty years in jail where he now awaits death.

He is a human being with a family and people who care about him. Why must his life lay in the hands of a corrupt and racist district attorney?

Jones deserves a free and fulfilling life, but he never got the chance. There is still time to grant his freedom and exonerate him.

You can sign this petition to free and save Jones’s life. See: https://www.change.org/p/julius-jones-is-innocent-don-t-let-him-be-executed-by-the-state-of-oklahoma?utm_content=cl_sharecopy_13534925_en-US%3Av3&recruiter=1094596373&recruited_by_id=c4cd4370-a091-11ea-9dd3bb9aeb568b8b&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial

Write a letter to Governor Stitt.

Donate to help Julius Jones get home to his family. see: https://www.representjustice.org/justice-for-julius-donate-today-2/

(source: Spectator News)

ARIZONA:

Death penalty still on the table for suspect in double murder case

The man charged with murdering a 25-year-old woman along with her 2-year-old son was back in court today. The prosecution reminded the court that they continue to push for the death penalty, and are still waiting for the defense to respond.

The courtroom discussion was full of exchange from all sides. The defense attorney clarified that they are now objecting to a mental health check for the suspect, Trevon Wilhite.

"And both sides have requested a psychological evaluation of the defendant," says Yuma County Superior Court Judge Brandon Kinsey.

However, the defense attorney responds by saying "no, your honor."

The prosecutor chimed in saying "there was a filing and then that was amended later."

Tamecia Sadler, the mother of Tamacia Wilder conferenced in to listen to the hearing. Judge Kinsey took a moment to tell Sadler that she can express her feelings when she needs to.

"The charges are serious in this case. The requested penalty from the state is serious. And so, we will be taking time, in this case, to make sure that everything is done appropriately. I don’t want you to ever feel like you are not allowed to voice that frustration. Okay, ma’am?" asks Judge Kinsey.

Wilhite’s demeanor was calm while in court, only saying a few words to his attorney.

The judge has set a hearing for the review of the disagreement on Wilhite's mental health evaluation for November 8.

(source: KECY news)

USA:

First Prisoner Killed by The Electric Chair Was From Buffalo

I don't know if this is something to be proud of, but the 1st prisoner to be executed by the electric chair was from Buffalo. He committed a grisly murder, which lead to him being sentenced to death.

William Kemmler of Buffalo had the honor of being the first person to be executed by electric chair. He probably deserved the electric chair experience he got, which was far from smooth, after hacking his wife, Tillie Ziegler to death with a hatchet on March 29, 1889. This is the stuff the ID channel is made of.

A Buffalo dentist had been toying around with using electric voltage as a method of execution.

Buffalo dentist Alfred Southwark had been experimenting with electrocution as a new and humane form of execution in the aftermath of a number of botched hangings. After hearing reports of a drunk worker who died from touching a high voltage electrical generator, Southwark began work on the first ‘electric chair’.

Southwark had conceived the method after malfunctioning street lights in Buffalo had killed several people by electrocuting them. Using the street lights as his inspiration, he worked with a local animal shelter to try his method of killing on stray dogs.

“Southwick joined physician George E. Fell and the head of the Buffalo ASPCA in a series of experiments electrocuting hundreds of stray dogs. They ran trials with the dog in water and out of water, and varied the electrode type and placement until they came up with a repeatable method to euthanize animals using electricity.”

On August 6, 1890, Kemmler was set to be killed by a 1,000-volt generator. Kemmler was electrocuted for 17 seconds, but witnesses said he was still breathing, which doctors confirmed! After realizing that the 1,000 volts hadn't done the job, his executioners increased voltage and shocked him with 2,000 volts. The blood vessels under Kemmler's skin burst and bled, and his body caught fire. The entire process took 8-minutes, which certainly defeated the purpose of being humane.

According to Murderpedia, Kemmler didn't scream, cry or act out. He even is quoted as saying,

“Gentlemen, I wish you luck. I'm sure I'll get a good place, and I'm ready.”

After the 1st electrocution, 26 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Military and the Federal government all began to use electrocution as a form of capital punishment. The 1st woman to die by the electric chair was Martha M. Place. She was executed at Sing Sing Prison on March 20, 1899, for the murder of her teenage step-daughter.

(source: Yasmin Young, WYRK news)

ZIMBABWE:

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Time ripe for abolition of death penalty

see: https://www.herald.co.zw/editorial-comment-time-ripe-for-abolition-of-death-penalty/

(source: The Herald)

MALAYSIA:

Plight of single mother of 9 shows need to abolish death penalty, says group

THE death sentence for a single mother of 9 children convicted on drug charges shows the need to replace capital punishment with maximum sentences to be handed out at the court’s discretion, an anti-death penalty group said.

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) said the death penalty and life imprisonment for drug offences should be abolished.

(source: themalaysianinsight.com)

SINGAPORE:

41-Year-old Singapore Resident Faces Death Penalty for Possessing 900 Grams of Charas

Omar Yacob, a 41-year-old Singapore resident, has been sentenced to death by the court after the police and narcotics officials caught him with 900 grams of charas. Omar challenged the verdict in the higher court but his plea was rejected and the death penalty stayed. The court verdict was delivered in February 2021. In the final hearing, though, Omar levelled some serious allegations against the police and claimed that he was innocent. Omar, in his defence, had said, “The police had kept the drugs in my car. I wasn’t even aware of charas in my car. I am innocent". According to the laws of Singapore, charas is listed as class A drugs. Procuring, consuming and smuggling intoxicating substances such as cannabis, cocaine, Ecstasy, methamphetamine or heroin is illegal in Singapore.

According to reports, the Singapore police arrested Omar with about 900 grams of charas while he was driving a car, accompanied by his father on the side seat. The police and the narcotics officials arrested him in 2018 and recovered 900 grams of charas from his car at the time of the arrest.

Omar was then produced before the court where he was sentenced to death. The matter has come into discussion after the punishment of the death penalty to Omar.

Consumption and procurement of Cannabis (Charas-Ganja) are Illegal in several countries. It is illegal to keep, plant and consume cannabis. Despite strict rules, many still indulge in smuggling these substances.

(source: news18.com)

PHILIPPINES:

Goma to push for revival of death penalty in Congress

Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez plans to revive the death penalty for heinous crimes and big-time drug trafficking if he wins as representative of the 4th legislative district of Leyte.

“There should be a heavier penalty for heinous crimes especially for drug trafficking, otherwise, we will become a narco-state,” Gomez said.

As to the opposition of the Catholic church, Gomez stressed the separation of the church and the state, citing their gains on their anti-illegal drug campaign in Ormoc.

He also lauded President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, without which, according to him, would not have helped Ormoc turn into the safest city in the country from being the drug capital in Eastern Visayas.

Ormoc is the 1st city in the region to have been declared as drug-cleared in 2016.

He expressed confidence that he will be leaving the city under Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez’ care who is seeking her 1st term for mayor.

“She will carry on the good things and have her programs as well. She will make Ormoc better because she’s very detailed.”

(source: Manila Bulletin)

INDIA:

‘Govt must move HC for capital punishment to Sooraj’

MP NK Premachandran on Tuesday demanded that the state government should move the high court seeking capital punishment for Sooraj who was convicted in the Uthra murder case.

Speaking to media persons after meeting the family members of Uthra of Veelasseril, Eram, Anchal, here at their house, he said the state government should honour Uhtra’s family’s opinion on the sentence. He pointed out that despite the Uthra case being one of the rarest of rare cases the court did not order capital punishment.

Though the evidence gathering and conduct of the case by the prosecution were done in a flawless manner, the convict did not get the deserved punishment, he said. Sooraj, Uthra’s husband who used a snake to kill his wife, a differently-abled woman, received double life term in addition to 17 years of rigorous imprisonment in four cases charged against him.

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

Death row takes huge mental toll on prisoners, reveals report

Death row prisoners could spend up to 23 years in jail and may have to wait up to 14 years for their sentence to be executed. This long incarceration and time spent agonising over the death penalty takes a heavy toll on prisoners who suffer from psychiatric illnesses and intellectual disability, according to a new study.

The study conducted by Project 39A, a criminal justice program at the National Law University Delhi, also found that a majority of death row prisoners are from a disturbed family environment and 1 in 2 suffered physical or verbal abuse as children. It also found that 51 death row prisoners (62.2%) were diagnosed with at least one mental illness. The researchers interviewed 88 death row prisoners and their families across five states including Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.

Project 39A executive director Anup Surendranath calls the theoretical approaches to punishment flawed. “At the core of the conversation around ‘blameworthiness’ is the unshakeable assumption that individuals act in a vacuum. However, there is now extensive research to show that this assumption is necessarily false and that individual actions are influenced by a whole host of factors involving social contexts, personal histories, psychological and developmental experiences etc.

The report ‘Deathworthy: A Mental Health Perspective of the Death Penalty’ -- released on Wednesday -- says of the 88 prisoners interviewed, 35% were diagnosed with major depressive disorder (the proportion of prisoners with MDD is approximately 11 times higher than that in the community population), 22% were diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, 20% suffered from substance use disorder and 6% screened for psychosis. Nine out of 83 prisoners were diagnosed with intellectual disability.

The Supreme Court has often considered the emotional and mental agony of living with the uncertainty of the death sentence, as a factor in commuting the sentence after the rejection of mercy petition by the President but researchers say the torture for the prisoner begins as soon as he is sentenced to death.

The study’s lead author Maitreyi Misra said, “The trauma of being sentenced to death, the many missteps of the death penalty (such as out of turn issuance of death warrants), the worry about the families and are all part of this agony. Not being allowed to work or engage in activities that may help divert their attention, many prisoners referred to themselves as the living dead, many wanted to be hanged as a way to end their misery rather than continue living with their impending yet uncertain death.”

As Purab, a prisoner, told researchers, “Killing once is better than dying everyday, either leave me or just kill me. This death sentence is like slow poison, it would be better if it could be had in one gulp.”

The study also found that families of death row prisoners were not just faced with the ‘ambiguous loss’ of not knowing when and if their loved ones will die and their ‘disenfranchised grief’ but also forced to hide their identity in certain cases and suffer loss of livelihood and poor health.

The mental health of prisoners who were ultimately acquitted or their sentence commuted suffered too, with 13 out of the 19 prisoners who are now acquitted were diagnosed with at least one mental illness. Three had attempted suicide in prison.

(source for both: The Times of India)

SRI LANKA:

Death sentence to minors to be replaced with custodial sentences

The death sentence being given to minors is to be replaced with custodial sentences.

The Youthful Offenders (Training Schools) (Amendment) Bill, Penal Code (Amendment) Bill and the Regulations made by the Minister of Justice under Section 840 of the Civil Procedure Code (Chapter 101) read with Section 214 of the said Code and published in the Gazette Extraordinary No. 2234/67 dated 2nd July 2021 are scheduled to be passed in Parliament.

The Ministerial Consultative Committee on Justice chaired by Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC decided to present the two Bills and Regulations in Parliament tomorrow (Thursday).

The Youthful Offenders (Training Schools) (Amendment) Bill aims at amending the age limit previously established from below 18 to between 18-22. The amendment to the Penal Code establishes provisions to replace the verdict of death sentence being given to minors replacing it with custodial sentences.

(source: Colombo Gazette)

IRAN:

Human Rights record of Ebrahim Raisi Eyewitness Accounts, Batoul Majani

My name is Batoul Majani. I am a former political prisoner and spent 7 years in prison. I was arrested 4 times. On July 27, 1988, I was arrested for the last time. The Iranian regime has imprisoned and executed 7 members of my family in the 1980s.

My uncle died under torture in February 1981. Another relative of mine, Ahmad Ahmadi, was executed in the summer of 1981. 5 other members of my family were executed in 1988. my brother Abdolrasul Majani was one of them.

I was arrested on July 27, 1988, at my home. 3 or 4 Revolutionary Guards came to the house and summoned me under the pretext of having some questions. In the street, they blindfolded me, as they had refused to do that in front of my parents at home. I saw they had a list of names. I later found out that their list consisted of the names of released prisoners, and they were looking for them one by one. They completed the list and took all of us to the prison.

We were in that prison for two weeks, in which we were interrogated and tortured. One morning, when they were taking me for interrogation, I saw my brother, Abdulrasul Majani, in the prison yard in a prisoner uniform. That was the last time I saw him, and later, I found out that he was executed in that prison.

After 2 weeks of interrogation, they took me to Evin prison. I was taken to solitary confinement, which they called the “resting wards.” After two weeks, they took me to court. I was not aware of what was happening in Evin prison. When they called us to the court; first they blindfolded us. When I went to the corridor, I saw many prisoners lined up. I realized we were in a large corridor, and there were many men and women in the corridor. The female inmates were on one side, and the male prisoners were on the other side. I was shocked and wondered what was happening there. I covertly asked a prisoner, “why is it here too crowdy?” she said, “here is the special court where the death commission is stationed. They bring every prisoner here, and from here, they take many prisoners to the gallows.”

She was surprised and asked me, where have you been that you did not know what was happening here. I told her they had just brought me back here. I asked her about my cousin, Farah Aghayan, who was in the women’s ward in the “closed-door” cells. I asked her: “Do you have any information about Farah? She said: “Yes, I know her. They were 35 very resistant women in a closed-door cell. They were among the first to come to this court, and they were all executed.”

I then realized what was happening, and it made me very upset. I was confused. They called my name, and I entered the courtroom. I saw 4 or 5 individuals behind a desk. They started asking me questions. As they asked me questions and I responded, one of them started shouting, “she is with the MEK. She lies, and she should be executed.” later found out that this person was Ebrahim Raisi, who wanted to execute all prisoners. I still remember Raisi’s voice, yelling, and saying that this is the 4th time she has been arrested and should be executed.

After a few minutes, they took me out of that room. Those who went to this so-called court were later taken to a corridor, at the end of which were a bunch of old cells. When I entered one of those cells, I saw it was dirty. These cells were abandoned. But on the walls, I saw writings of those who were taken to the gallows. They had written when they had entered the cell and when they were taken for the execution.

Since we were blindfolded, we tried to see the faces of the regime officials. I saw Raisi and Hossainali Nayerri there. Before that time I was arrested twice and sentenced to imprisonment. Nayeri was the Sharia judge who sentenced me to prison. But that day I saw Raisi. Once I was released from jail, I found out that the person who was shouting at me was Raisi. Raisi and Pourmohammadi were in the death commission during the 1988 massacre.

I was in that cell for 5 months. When I returned to the ward, I saw that 90% of those I knew were already sentenced to prison were all executed.

My brother was rearrested and executed in 1988. He was in prison from 1981 to 1986 and was released once his prison term was finished. He was arrested again in June 1988. Since his last arrest, he was in prison only for 1 month and was not even sentenced. He was executed without any legal procedure.

One of my friends was Zahra Kiayie, who was 17 years old at the time of her arrest. She endured brutal tortures. She was tortured as much that once I saw blood coming from her legs, and the prison officials were forced to operate her leg. She refused to participate in an interview to condemned the MEK. They had told her that if she does not condemn the MEK, she would be executed, but if she condemnes the MEK, she would be released. She refused to condemn the MEK, and they executed her. She was in prison for 3 years without being sentenced. After 3 years, she was sentenced to 15 years in jail, but they hanged her during the 1988 massacre.

Farah Aghayan, my cousin, was a very active university student at Tehran University. She was arrested in 1982. She was later sentenced to 15 years in prison. She always resisted the guards and firmly defended her identity as a MEK supporter and supported the MEK. Finally, in 1988, Raisi and Pourmohammadi sentenced her to execution, and she was executed. Her brother, Ami Aghayan, despite being sentenced to 3 years in prison, was executed in Semnan province. Their father, a dignified teacher in Shahrud, when heard his children were executed, suffered a heart attack and died. Their mother also lost her sanity.

Zahra Nazemi, one of my relatives, was executed during the 1988 massacre. She was arrested for the second time. She had spent three years in prison before being rearrested. She had tried to join the MEK in Iraq and was arrested. They had sentenced her to 5 years in jail, and she was in Semnan province’s prison.

In Semnan prison, there were 40 prisoners. Despite having prison terms, 37 of them were executed. Only 3 of them remained.

Another example is Gholamreza Mohammadi, who was my mother’s cousin. He was in Gohardasht prison. He was transferred from Mashhad prison to Tehran, and despite being under pressure, he and his comrades bravely defended their identity and the MEK. I have heard that they resisted to the point that guards were afraid to open their cells. They were the first to be executed in Gohardasht prison.

As a survivor of this massacre and on behalf of many families of victims inside Iran, I ask you all to participate in the Iranian Resistance’s justice-seeking Movement. We want justice for all of these martyrs. We should raise this issue in all international stances to hopefully hold these criminals to account in an international court.

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

16 Executions in a Week To Intimidate and Prevent Popular Uprisings

(Written by Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)

NCRI logoThe clerical regime has executed at least 16 prisoners in different cities of Iran within a week and between October 11 to 18. On October 10, Esmail Ghassabi-Sini in Dastgerd Prison in Isfahan, Omid Sarani in Birjand Prison, Ebrahim Rakhshani in Ghayen Prison, Mohammad Latifi, 23, along with another prisoner in Dizelabad Prison in Kermanshah, also, Manouchehr Kazemi, after 6 years in Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj, and 2 other prisoners were hanged in Qom, one of whom was an Afghan national.

Furthermore, on October 14, the clerical regime executed 4 prisoners in Dastgerd prison in Isfahan named Hossein Shamsi, Ali Mokhtari, Hossein Amiri, and Yavar Dehzadeh. Also, on October 17, 3 more prisoners named Younes, Soheil Hojjatfar, 39, and Hamed Jafarzadeh, 41, in Zanjan prison, in addition to Musa Shahbakhsh in Zahedan prison, were hanged.

The growing pace of executions reveals the clerical regime’s fear of the people’s outrage and disgust of the evil system of Velayat-e-Faqih. By installing Ebrahim Raisi, the henchman of the 1988 massacre, and intensifying torture and executions, and creating an atmosphere of terror, Khamenei is trying in vain to prevent the rise of popular uprisings.

The Iranian Resistance once again urges the United Nations and all human rights organizations to take urgent action to stop the arbitrary and criminal executions in Iran. A regime that survives only through torture, execution, and murder, must be ousted from the international community. The case of the brutal violation of human rights in Iran must be referred to the UN Security Council, and its leaders brought to justice for 4 decades of crimes against humanity and genocide.

Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)

(source for both: ncr-iran.org)

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Arman Abdolali’s execution postponed again

Iranian judicial authorities have once again postponed the planned execution of Arman Abdolali who’s been convicted of murder.

Abdolali’s lawyer says the execution, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning, has not been carried out.

Abdolali was earlier moved to solitary confinement in a prison in Karaj in preparation for his death sentence to be carried out.

This is the 3rd time that the 25-year-old’s planned hanging is stopped.

Arman was 17 when he was arrested for the murder of Ghazaleh Shakour.

He was sentenced to death in 2015 a year after Shakour disappeared. Her body has never been found.

Many Iranian celebrities have called on the judiciary to grant him a stay of execution.

(source: ifpnews.com)

OCTOBER 19, 2021:

TEXAS:

Final arguments begin in Rodney Reed hearing

Attorneys for death row inmate Rodney Reed and the state of Texas are slated to begin final arguments Monday in Reed’s evidentiary hearing.

The hearing began in Bastrop, Texas, back in July. Reed is seeking a new trial in connection to the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. The state is defending its original conviction of Reed.

After DNA that matched Reed's was found in Stites' body, Reed was convicted of her murder in 1998 and sentenced to death.

Days before Reed's scheduled execution in 2019, he was granted an indefinite stay of execution and a new evidentiary hearing, due to the defense's argument that the prosecution both withheld evidence and presented false evidence in the initial trial.

Reed's attorneys have long claimed Reed is innocent and that he and Stites were in a consensual relationship, pointing towards Stites' fiancé, Jimmy Fennell Jr., as the killer.

The hearing was the first time his legal team was able to introduce new testimony and evidence to the record in his defense, and argued for a new trial, while the state made its case to uphold the original conviction.

The evidentiary hearing lasted nine days in a Bastrop courtroom, where nearly 50 witnesses took the stand.

“Our evidence and stuff has been admitted into this case, so we feel better than we ever have in the last 24 years about any hearing that we've been in thus far," said Rodrick Reed, Rodney Reed's brother.

Following final arguments, the judge will have some time to review all the evidence and testimony before issuing his recommendation on whether the Court of Criminal Appeals should grant Reed a new trial.

The state also called its own witnesses to defend its original investigation and conviction. They included the original investigators in the case, Fennell himself, and Stites’ sister.

“There was absolutely no reason for Rodney Reed to have any type of DNA on my sister, there was no evidence of any relationship, and we still 100% believe that Rodney Reed raped and murdered my sister," said Debra Oliver, Stacey Stites' sister.

2 expert forensic pathologists were key witnesses for the defense.

They testified that after reviewing the reports, video and photos from the crime scene and autopsy, they believe Stites died hours earlier than the state claims, placing her with Fennell at her time of death.

“We want Rodney to have the day in court that he actually deserves with all of this evidence of his innocence to be presented," said Jane Pucher, an attorney with the Innocence Project and part of Rodney Reed's legal team.

The state presented its own experts who disagreed, supporting the original medical examiner’s report. It also brought witnesses who testified about other charges against Reed.

One woman said she was raped in 1995, and the DNA from her rape kit ultimately matched Reed’s.

Another woman said 6 months after Stites’ murder, a man tried to abduct and assault her, but she got away. She identified Reed as her assailant out of a photo lineup.

The defense objected to their testimony being included, saying Reed has never been convicted of those crimes.

(source: Spectrum News)

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State rests their case in capital murder trial of former CHRISTUS nurse

The state rested their case Wednesday in the William Davis capital murder trial. The defense is expected to argue their side on Monday.

Davis is on trial for multiple charges of murder after being accused of killing patients by intentionally blowing air in their arterial lines while working at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital.

Four patients were killed and several others were severely injured. This lead to Davis’ arrest in 2018 following an investigation done by the Tyler Police Department and the hospital. Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putnam has said he will pursue the death penalty if Davis is convicted.

(source: everythinglubbock.com)

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Texarkana man indicted for capital murder in 11-month-old’s death

A Texarkana man accused of beating his girlfriend’s 11-month-old son to death has been indicted for capital murder by a Bowie County grand jury.

Joshua Lowe, 28, is accused of causing the death of Javontae Neeley. The baby’s mother, Christy Wedgeworth, 24, was indicted Thursday for injury to a child by omission in Javontae’s death and injury to a child by omission involving injuries suffered by her 4-year-old daughter. Lowe was indicted for first-degree injury to a child in connection with injuries he allegedly inflicted on Javontae in the days before his death and for third-degree injury to a child for alleged physical abuse of Javontae’s 4-year-old sister.

According to probable cause docouments, Javontae was unresponsive when he was driven in a private vehicle to St.Michael’s Hospital on July 11. The child’s injuries allegedly did not fit with Lowe’s claim that the boy choked on a hot dog. In an interview with Texarkana, Texas, police, Lowe allegedly claimed he dropped Javontae on the floor because the child threw up on him.

Javontae’s injuries allegedly did not fit with Lowe’s account.

A doctor at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock reported to investigators the day before Javontae died July 13, that his injuries included “abusive head trauma, subdural hemorrhage, cerebral edema, retinal hemorrhages, healing rib fractures (five separate ribs), and bruising, (facial scalp, ear, cheek, chest, back and extremity).”

The doctor allegedly suspected Javontae had been violently shaken causing a head injury. Other injuries, such as cracked ribs, were older and had been inflicted days before the injury that caused his death.

Wedgeworth was allegedly aware that Lowe was beieng physically abusive toward Javontae and toward Javontae’s older sister.

Lowe faces life without parole or the death penalty if convicted of capital murder. If convicted of injury to a child for injuries Javontae suffered before he was fatally injured, Lowe faces 5 to 99 years or life in prison. If convicted of abusing Wedgeworth’s 4-year-old daughter, he faces 2 to 10 years in prison.

Wedgeworth faces 2 to 10 years if convicted of injury to a child by omission involving her daughter and 5 to 99 years or life in prison if convicted of injury to a child with serious bodily injury by omission involving Javontae.

Lowe is being held in the Bowie County jail with bond set at $7 million. Wedgeworth’s bond is set at $1 million.

(source: txktoady.com)

FLORIDA:

The Parkland shooter may face the death penalty, here's how that process could play out ---- Judge Elizabeth Scherer is presiding over both the battery case and the capital case.

The confessed Parkland school shooter is expected to change his plea agreement Wednesday morning.

The decision came unexpectedly. He had been set to start trial soon in a separate case for attacking a Broward Sheriff's Office sergeant in jail. Instead, last Friday, he plead guilty to all 4 criminal accounts of assault on a law enforcement officer, including attempted aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. And his attorneys made an announcement: Nikolas Cruz, now 23, will plead guilty to 17 counts of 1st-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, his defense lawyers told presiding Judge Elizabeth Scherer.

The change in Cruz's plea in the capital case this week would spare relatives and survivors from the stress and trauma of a long, public criminal trial.

Instead of going to trial, the case would enter the penalty phase, where a jury of 12 people would decide if he receives life without parole or the death penalty. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.

Under Florida law, the death penalty requires a jury to be unanimous in their decision.

Lori Alhadeff, who's 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed, said she has been waiting for more than 3 years for the confessed shooter to have his day in court.

“You know, I'm never going to be able to heal, this is very painful for me and for my family. But we are ultimately seeking that he dies from the death penalty,” she told the South Florida Roundup Friday.

Mitch and Annika Dworet, the parents of Nicholas Dworet, 17, who was killed in the shooting and Alexander Dworet, who was shot but survived, believe the death penalty is the appropriate justice.

“We would like to see the death penalty, absolutely,“ said Mitch Dworet. “No doubt in our minds.”

Cruz's defense team has maintained that he would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors have rejected that deal. If he does change his plea, instead of going to trial, the case would enter the penalty phase, or the later phase, of a death penalty trial.

WLRN's Caitie Switalski Muñoz spoke with Stephen Harper, professor emeritus and supervising attorney of the Death Penalty Clinic at Florida International University, about what pleading guilty could mean, some of the history of the death penalty in Florida, and a timeline for what's next in his case.

The interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

HARPER: If he pleads guilty or someone pleads guilty, then [the defense team] will make a decision as to whether they went to waive a jury or not wave the jury. Most everyone will not waive a jury.

Then you impaneled a jury that is only going to decide whether a person should be executed or should be spend the rest of their life in prison. Both sides are going to spend a lot of time in their voir dire. Both the prosecutor and the defense [are] trying to find people who will work, who will rule their way. The fact that there are so many people killed in this case, the more people that have been killed, the more publicity about it, the more difficult it is for the court or for both sides to find a fair juror.

WLRN: When you think about a death penalty case, there's usually two phases, right? The first phase determines whether or not you're finding someone guilty. But in [this] case, there's going to be a possible plea change. So we’re looking at just going straight into the penalty phase of a death penalty case. And for those kind of things, what is the responsibility of a jury in that state of a death penalty trial?

A person can waive the jury and have the judge make the ultimate decision.

But if that person does not waive the jury in a penalty phase and it's only a penalty phase jury, then that jury would be picked by the prosecutor and the defense lawyers. They would go back and forth. They would pick a jury only to hear the penalty phase as to whether this person should be sentenced to death or sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

And very few people let the judge make the decision. Most people want to have the jury make the decision because it only takes one juror to vote for life for the judge and the court to come back under the law with a jury sentence of life.

Is it true that potential jurors who are morally opposed to the death penalty aren't chosen for those cases?

The law is basically that if you are adamantly opposed to the death penalty, you cannot serve on the jury. The test is whether you, notwithstanding your personal beliefs, whether you can weigh the evidence, follow the law and make a decision.

If you're thinking about a typical death penalty case and the penalty phase ... When does that start in a typical case after jury selection? Is it six months? Is it weeks?

As my father, who was a lawyer, taught me the words, "it depends." Every case is different. Sometimes they start up almost immediately. Other times, judges will stop and give a defense an opportunity to get all of its witnesses together and it may be months. So, it really depends, but in a case where somebody has waived the trial and now they're starting up for only a sentencing hearing, it would really depend on what experts either side is calling in [and] their availability.

But I would presume it would be pretty quickly after the person enters a plea.

CSM: Is there a world in which a defendant can plead guilty, but with conditions, like somebody saying, 'Oh, I'll plead guilty if we take the death penalty off the table?”

SH: The negotiations between the prosecutor and the defense frequently address those kinds of issues. I have represented many people who the prosecutor says, 'Listen, if he pleads guilty and takes a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, we will waive seeking the death penalty.'

But the state has the ultimate decision making power, and they can say it doesn't really matter if he pleads guilty or not guilty, we are not going to waive seeking the death penalty.

So, of course, 1st degree murder is a capital offense. Is attempted first-degree murder or attempted murder also a capital offense?

No, the only offense in which somebody can get the death penalty is to be found guilty of first degree murder and one of what we call the “statutory aggravating factors” exists.

So, for example, if you kill somebody and you do it with [in] cold, calculated and premeditated or heinous, atrocious and cruel circumstances … those are what we call aggravating factors. There are about [16] aggravating factors in Florida, and the state has to prove one of those factors before somebody can be eligible for the death penalty.

What does a defendant give up by pleading guilty and just moving to a penalty phase?

Well, he gives up his right to have the trial and the trial that the burden is on the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty as charged, and he gives up that right.

There are some advantages to pleading guilty when you are guilty, if nothing else, because you're acknowledging your guilt. And that goes some distance to convincing some people, not all people, that you are accepting responsibility. And that may end up with a lesser penalty.

(source: WLRN news)

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Death penalty arguments continue in the Marian Williams trial

The trial for Marian Williams has entered the penalty phase after a jury found Williams guilty in the arson fire that killed 3 young boys. The jury will now have to decide if Williams will receive the death penalty.

Tuesday marks the 2nd day of arguments in the penalty phase of the trial. It is the defense’s turn to argue against the death penalty for Marian Williams.

On Monday the state presented evidence and impact statements in support of the death penalty.

The defense began their arguments with 2 younger brothers of Marian Williams.

Willie Williams, one of Marian’s younger brothers, told the court that Marian cared about the kids who were killed. He said that Marian is a loving person and had nothing bad to say about her.

Another younger brother to Marian, Eric Ludgood, told the court that Marian was a great person in his mind and used to make sure he was okay.

The defense also brought Marian Williams’ daughter, Taquita Leverett, to the stand. Marian began to cry as her daughter spoke. Leverett told the jury that Marian is a great mom.

Williams’ other daughter Miranda Washinton also spoke. She said Marian used to sing in church. Washinton said Marian was very upset after her husband died and did spend some time in a mental health facility.

Three of Marian Williams’ grandchildren were also brought before the jury by the defense. Two of whom are minors. They all spoke about Williams in a similar manner, saying that she is a loving and caring person.

If the jury recommends the death penalty and the judge agrees, Williams will join three other women on death row in Florida. There are 302 men on death row. If they don’t recommend the death penalty, Williams is facing the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

(source: WINK news)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Judge denies request to block lethal injection in Alabama

A federal judge has declined to block Thursday’s scheduled execution of an Alabama inmate convicted of the 1991 kidnap and murder of a woman abducted outside an automatic teller machine.

U.S. Chief District Judge Emily Marks on Sunday denied a request for a preliminary injunction sought by lawyers for Willie B. Smith III. Smith is scheduled to receive a lethal injection on Thursday at a south Alabama prison.

His lawyers argued that Smith, whose IQ has been measured in the 70s, should have been given help to understand prison paperwork related to the selection of an execution method.

Marks was directed Friday by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to consider the injunction request. Marks denied the injunction request Sunday after ruling that Smith was not likely to prevail in the lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Court records indicate his attorneys are appealing.

Smith was convicted of the abduction and slaying of Sharma Ruth Johnson, 22. Prosecutors said Smith abducted Johnson at gunpoint from an ATM in Birmingham, stole $80 from her and then took her to a cemetery where he shot her in the back of the head.

Lethal injection is the main execution method used in Alabama. But after lawmakers authorized nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method in 2018, the new law gave death row inmates a 30-day window to select nitrogen hypoxia as their execution method.

Smith did not turn in the form selecting nitrogen. That laid the groundwork for the state to carry out plans for his execution by lethal injection on Thursday. The state has not developed a system for executing inmates by nitrogen.

(source: Associated Press)

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Judge clears way for Alabama execution of Willie B. Smith, intellectually disabled Black man, on Thursday

An order by a federal district court has cleared the way for the execution of Willie B. Smith this Thursday, Oct. 21.

District Court Judge Emily Marks issued an order Sunday denying Smith a preliminary injunction: a court order that would have delayed his execution until a disability claim regarding his mental capacity could be considered at trial.

Smith, who has an IQ of 70, was convicted of the 1991 murder of Sharma Ruth Johnson, the sister of a Birmingham police detective. Smith’s attorneys claim prison officials violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act when they did not provide him a reasonable accommodation to allow him to understand he had a 30-day period to opt into execution by nitrogen suffocation.

An execution using the method, which involves replacing oxygen needed to breathe with nitrogen gas, has never been carried out in the United States. Execution through nitrogen suffocation was approved by the Alabama Legislature in 2018, making Alabama the third state in the country — including Oklahoma and Mississippi — to have authorized its use.

Marks, a Trump appointee, is the same lower court judge that previously dismissed Smith’s disability claim on technical grounds. An appeals court vacated that dismissal and ordered Judge Marks to reconsider. This move, clearing the way for Smith’s lethal injection on Thursday, was her response.

Prison officials have limited press access to Smith’s execution, which will take place at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama. Media access is being restricted, and prison officials attempted to deny Smith the 6 witnesses he requested be present, citing concerns about COVID-19. A federal defender for the state said in a later hearing that Smith’s designated witnesses will be allowed to attend only if they sign a waiver.

Smith’s lawyers have already filed a notice of appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

(source: WRBL news)

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2 administrations, 16 deaths: Governors reflect on the death penalty ahead of Willie B. Smith’s execution on Thursday

As Alabama governors, Republican Robert Bentley and Democrat Don Siegelman presided over 16 executions: 8 each. Years after the ends of their respective administrations, Bentley and Siegelman’s positions on the death penalty have evolved, with both former state leaders saying they have serious concerns with the practice of putting prisoners to death.

In separate interviews just days before death row inmate Willie B. Smith is scheduled to be executed, the 2 governors reflected on their own roles in the death penalty, their views on the issue and how they may have changed, and what it’s like to live with the difficult decisions they’ve made.

Governor Don Siegelman: “Horror stories,” a tour, and a change of heart

Under Gov. Siegelman, the electric chair was the state’s primary means of execution. Seven of the eight deaths he presided over were conducted using the method.

At one point during his time in office, motivated by hearing “horror stories” out of Holman, the prison where executions are still carried out, Siegelman took a tour of death row.

“I’ll never, ever forget the faces I saw on death row and the conditions under which they were living,” Siegelman said.

The governor, who had also served as attorney general, was given a demonstration of how the electric chair worked.

“They put it in gear for me – ginned up the generator,” he said. “And I was struck by the — I was frightened — by the sound, and I know that the inmates on death row had to be likewise frightened even though it was a dry run.”

Nonetheless, Siegelman said that carrying out executions was his obligation as attorney general and, later, governor.

Now, though, Siegelman said his views have changed. A pivotal moment in this shift was Siegelman’s own legal troubles.

“When I was convicted of something that I knew hadn’t happened, I said quiet prayers,” he said. “Some of the faces and names of those people who were executed during my term as governor flashed before me. I shuddered at the thought of — had I made a mistake. I asked God to forgive me.”

He said he’s now “studied” the “criminal justice system extensively,” and said that carrying out the state’s highest form of punishment is wrong for multiple reasons.

The first reason is that Siegelman believes serving life in prison is a worse punishment than death.

“If you want to punish someone for a crime, you don’t want to put them out of misery,” he said.

Siegelman also sees problems with the criminal justice system that may impact the fairness of the processes that lead to the execution of an inmate.

“We need to rethink the death penalty,” he said. “It makes no sense.”

As for the executions he allowed to move forward as the state’s top official, Siegelman said the deaths “still do not sit well” with him.

“If I knew then what I know now, they wouldn’t be executed,” he said.

Governor Robert Bentley: “I believe in life”

Republican Gov. Robert Bentley also presided over 8 executions during his time in office from 2011 to 2017. All were lethal injections.

Bentley, who is a doctor, said he “agonized” over every execution because he felt his duty to “do no harm” conflicted with his role in administering what Justice Harry Blackmun called “the machinery of death.”

“I struggled with it,” he said. “It was a very difficult situation, but I was also sworn as the governor of the state. So I was put in the situation as a physician, as governor, and I had to decide which route I had to go. And at that time, I was the governor, and so I had to make those decisions.”

Although Bentley’s views have clearly evolved since his time in office, he stopped just short of saying he now opposes the death penalty, saying he’s “torn.”

He did say, though, that his Christian values make him question the practice, which he thinks is “inconsistent” with a pro-life worldview.

“I am pro-life: I don’t believe in abortions. I don’t believe in euthanasia. I believe in life,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has the right to take somebody else’s life.”

He also said that’s it’s unclear the death penalty works as a deterrent for crime.

“Do people consider that when they commit crimes? I certainly do not think they do,” he said. “Most of them are under the influence or they’re angry, but they don’t think about the death penalty.”

Like Siegelman, Bentley said a life sentence may also be a worse punishment than death. “It’s something to think about,” he said.

Neither Siegelman or Bentley met with a death row inmate while in office. Both governors also denied every request for clemency they received.

Bentley said aside from a case that has since been overturned in the courts, he came close to granting a reprieve only once.

“It was a young man who killed a baby,” Bentley said, referring to the case of Christopher Thomas Johnson, who was convicted of murdering his six-month-old son Elias Ocean Johnson.

“I just wondered if it was an accident,” Bentley said. “He felt so guilty about it — said that he didn’t want any appeals of his case. He wanted to be put to death. I questioned that.”

Ultimately, Bentley decided to let the execution go through. Johnson was put to death 20 years ago this Wednesday.

Overall, Bentley said he believes the information provided to a governor to help decide whether to move forward with an execution is biased in favor of the prosecution.

“Much of the material that was brought to me was from the prosecutors,” he said. “It was somewhat one-sided.”

He said the process would be fairer if more complete, balanced information was reviewed by governors ahead of the final decision to go through with a particular execution.

Bentley said that ultimately, it may be better to have more than one person bear the responsibility of reviewing capital cases.

“Maybe you should have an advisory panel decision,” Bentley said.

Decisions about the death penalty are never easy for a governor. Last year, Gov. Kay Ivey was confronted by the sister of Nathaniel Woods, a man executed by Ivey’s administration.

“You killed my brother,” Pamela Woods told Ivey in front of members of the press. “Gov. Ivey, you killed my brother. He’s an innocent man.”

As Ivey was whisked away by staff, Woods yelled after her. “Murderer,” she yelled at the governor’s back. “Murderer.”

Bentley said that he can’t speak for other governors, but that if he were confronted by the family member of an executed inmate, he would try to have sympathy.

“You apologize for what happened, but they have to realize we’re put in a situation where you had you had to do it,” he said. “You’re sworn to uphold the Constitution of the State of Alabama. So you had to execute the laws of the state. That’s what the chief executive of the state does. But you still could sympathize with the family. You could empathize with them. Tell them how sorry you were that happened, and I think that’s all you can do.”

The case of Willie B. Smith

Both governors discussed the case of Willie B. Smith, a mentally handicapped Black man scheduled to be executed Thursday, Oct. 21, for the murder of Sharma Ruth Johnson.

Siegelman and Bentley said that executing Smith raises serious questions.

The governors both cited Smith’s mental “deficiency” (he has an IQ of 70) as one reason the execution should be reconsidered.

“If you were a young child and were mentally challenged, obviously, you wouldn’t be in jail, they wouldn’t do anything to you,” Bentley said. “I just think that the mental capacity of an individual should come into play.”

Siegelman said he is not in the business of telling another governor what to do but said he’s made his opinion on Smith’s case – and other death penalty cases – clear.

“And if Governor Ivey asked, or if someone on her team asked my opinion, I would certainly offer that. This is something that touches people deeply and emotionally and from a spiritual standpoint. As it touched me, I’m sure it also touches Gov. Ivey. I’m sure she does not take these things lightly.”

Asked about prison officials citing COVID-19 in limiting press access to witness Smith’s death, Bentley said he supports robust media representation when executions take place.

“This case should not be any different from any other,” he said. “They can’t use COVID as an excuse.”

(source: WIAT news)

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Alabama Seeks Execution of Another Person with Intellectual Disability

Flouting the Constitution’s protections for people with intellectual disabilities, the State of Alabama plans to execute Willie Smith this Thursday even though his IQ scores demonstrate low intellectual functioning and experts testified that he has the functional independence of a child.

In 2002, the Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia held that the Constitution bars the execution of people with intellectual disability because their “diminished capacities to understand and process information, to communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of others . . . diminish their personal culpability” and increase their risk of being wrongfully convicted and sentenced.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins, Alabama executed 4 men whose low IQ scores demonstrated intellectual disability. All 4—Horace Dunkins, Cornelius Singleton, Willie Clisby, and Varnell Weeks—were Black.

Since Atkins, Alabama has executed at least 3 people despite credible evidence that they had intellectual disability.

Michael Brandon Samra was executed on May 16, 2019. Starting in early childhood, family members observed that Brandon was developmentally delayed and suffered tremors in his hands. He was in special education most of his life and was unable to finish high school. Mental health experts found prior to trial that Brandon had a low IQ and recommended neurological testing after finding evidence of brain dysfunction.

But Brandon, just 19 at the time of the crime, was too poor to hire a lawyer, and his court-appointed counsel did not hire or consult with an expert in intellectual disability, obtain recommended brain scans, or present evidence of his deficits. The penalty phase in Brandon’s case started a half hour after the jury returned a guilty verdict and ended in a death sentence recommendation that same day.

Like Brandon Samra, Holly Wood could not afford to hire a lawyer. The trial court appointed him a lawyer who had just been admitted to the bar and had no experience in criminal law. The lawyer failed to pursue evidence of Mr. Wood’s severe mental impairments even though a competency evaluation revealed that Mr. Wood could not read at better than a third-grade level and had a low IQ. Mr. Wood was convicted and sentenced to death.

After Atkins, an Alabama appeals court ordered a hearing to determine whether Mr. Wood, an African American man with an IQ less than 70, had intellectual disability. Evidence at that hearing showed, and the State agreed, that Mr. Wood’s IQ fell within the range for intellectual disability and that he had significant limitations in functional academics. But the trial court nonetheless found no intellectual disability.

A federal court reversed Mr. Wood’s death sentence because his inexperienced trial lawyer had failed to uncover and present evidence of his intellectual disability at trial. But that ruling was reversed by the federal appeals court and, in a decision that focused on the procedural rules that limit federal habeas corpus review and did not reach the merits of Mr. Wood’s claim, the Supreme Court also denied relief. Mr. Wood was put to death on September 9, 2010.

Eddie Powell was diagnosed with intellectual disability in the 5th grade and placed in special education classes, where he worked hard but could not keep up with other students. He functioned at only a 3rd-grade level in the s7h grade.

Mr. Powell was not permitted to present in court detailed evidence from teachers, doctors, neighbors, friends, family, and neuropsychological testing showing his adult IQ was in the range of intellectual disability, because an Alabama trial court summarily dismissed his intellectual disability claim without hearing any evidence. No state or federal court gave Mr. Powell a hearing on the merits of his claim.

He was executed on June 16, 2011.

“A Matter of Timing”

Willie Smith, a Black man, was sentenced to death in 1992 for killing a white woman during a robbery in Jefferson County in 1991, when he was just 22 years old.

Despite obvious indications that Mr. Smith was intellectually disabled, trial counsel did not do adequate IQ testing or other psychological testing.

New lawyers later presented IQ scores demonstrating significant sub-average intellectual functioning and experts who testified that he has the reading skills of an eighth grader and the math skills of a sixth grader. The State’s expert agreed that Mr. Smith has adaptive difficulties with “community use, health and safety, self-direction, social skills, and leisure skill areas.”

In 2012, the state court held that Mr. Smith’s adaptive deficits were not enough to show intellectual disability because they were outweighed by his strengths—an analysis that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in Moore v. Texas in 2017.

“This approach was acceptable at the time,” the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals wrote. “But after Moore, it no longer is.”

What is tragic about Mr. Smith’s case is that the decision about whether his low intellectual functioning makes him ineligible for the death penalty was based on an outdated and faulty analysis. It is a mere technicality that the Supreme Court set out the appropriate scientific analysis in 2017, but the Eleventh Circuit nonetheless held that Moore does not apply to Mr. Smith’s case because it was decided after the state court’s decision.

The court wrote that the reason Mr. Smith did not get relief in this case was “a matter of timing.”

(source: eji.org)

LOUISIANA:

Accused killer Matthew Mire booked into Ascension, Livingston jails on charges tied to multi-parish crime spree

Matthew Mire, accused of killing 2 people, was booked into jails in both Ascension and Livingston parishes Tuesday.

The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office had Mire in custody Tuesday morning as he faces charges that include 1 count of attempted 1st-degree murder, 1 count of aggravated flight from an officer, 1 count of illegal possession of stolen firearms, 1 count of obstruction of justice, and 1 count of resisting an officer.

Mire was then moved to the Ascension jail just before noon. There he's accused of even more serious charges, including two counts of murder.

Earlier this month, the district attorney in Ascension Parish brought the case against Mire to a grand jury, with indictments returned against Mire some five days after he was accused of killing a state trooper, shooting a woman to death and injuring another person Saturday morning.

Mire is facing charges in Ascension, East Baton Rouge and Livingston after he was arrested following a day-long manhunt in the wake of a double shooting in Livingston and a double shooting in Ascension Parish where Pamela Adair was killed. Unbeknownst for much of the day, Mire is also suspected of killing Master Trooper Adam Gaubert, too. Gaubert's body was found some 15 hours after he was killed.

A grand jury at the courthouse in Gonzales indicted Mire in Ascension Parish on charges of murder, attempted murder, home invasion, illegal use of a weapon, having stolen things, flight from an officer and attempted armed robbery.

Mire's bond was set at $1 million for some of the charges in Ascension Parish, but he is being held without bond on the murder charge there.

An East Baton Rouge Parish judge previously denied bond on East Baton Rouge charges.

In a story reported first by WBRZ earlier in the week, District Attorney Ricky Babin said there is a "strong likelihood" his office will pursue the death penalty against Mire.

(source: WBRZ news)

OHIO:

How Mental Illness Law Is Changing Ohio Death Row

A new Ohio law prohibiting the execution of people who had severe mental illness at the time of their crime has begun seeing its first implementations.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in January signed the bill into law covering killers diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or delusional disorder when they committed their offenses.

Earlier this year, judges removed inmates in Butler and Franklin counties from death row after their attorneys successfully argued they met the mental illness criteria under the law.

And earlier this month, the law was invoked in a state Supreme Court decision upholding the death sentence of a man who killed four relatives in 2017, including an 8-year-old boy.

WHAT ARE THE LAW'S ORIGINS?

Whether mentally ill people should be eligible for death sentences has long been debated. Ohio law already prohibited executions if an offender, “because of a mental disease or defect, lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of the offender’s conduct.”

State law also allows for a “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea, though that is rarely invoked and difficult to prove.

Then, in 2014, an Ohio Supreme Court task force on the death penalty released a report with 56 recommendations for changing capital punishment in Ohio. Recommendation No. 8 outlined a ban on executions if offenders had specific mental illnesses at the time they committed their crimes. By contrast, the “mental disease or defect" language could also apply to inmate mental illnesses developed or exacerbated after incarceration.

The new standard was backed by former GOP state Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, a longtime proponent for taking mental illness into consideration in the criminal justice system.

“The ‘evolving standards of decency’ which prohibit the execution of juveniles and those with intellectual disabilities should prohibit execution of those with serious mental illness,” Lundberg Stratton testified before the Legislature in May 2019.

HOW HAS THE LAW BEEN USED TO DATE?

In June, a Franklin County judge threw out the death sentence imposed on David Braden, sentenced to die for the 1999 Columbus killings of his girlfriend, 44-year-old Denise Roberts, and her father, 83-year-old Ralph Heimlich. Braden's lawyers successfully argued he had paranoid schizophrenia with delusions.

The Death Penalty Information Center, a national clearinghouse on capital punishment that opposes the death penalty, says Braden was the first inmate nationally removed from death row by such a law. Ohio is the only active death penalty state with this law.

Tennessee considered but did not pass such legislation in 2020. Connecticut had a similar law on its books before abolishing the death penalty in 2015. The Virginia Senate considered a similar measure before the state also abolished its death penalty this year.

In a 2nd Ohio case last month, a Butler County judge vacated the death sentence for Donald Ketterer, sentenced to die for the 2003 killing of 85-year-old Lawrence Sanders, his former boss. The judge said the evidence showed that Ketterer had bipolar disorder the day of the killing.

Then on Oct. 7, the state Supreme Court ruled 5-2 to uphold the death sentence for Arron Lawson for a 2017 quadruple slaying. Justice Sharon Kennedy, writing for the majority said his brutal killing of the 4 people, including an 8-year-old child, justified the death sentence and outweighed evidence presented on his behalf including a variety of mental health diagnoses. A 3-judge panel sentenced Lawson to death in 2019.

At different times, Lawson, 27, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, and PTSD, and did not receive adequate treatment for those conditions, records show. As a result, Justice Michael Donnelly “reluctantly concurred” with upholding Lawson's death sentence. But he noted that Lawson has the ability to appeal under the new mental illness law.

A message was left with Lawson's attorney seeking comment.

WILL OTHER DEATH ROW INMATES INVOKE THE NEW LAW?

The legislation that took effect in April provides a 1-year window for current death row inmates to file to have their death sentences revoked because of the serious mental illness clause. Inmates who successfully appeal their sentences are removed from death row but still face life in prison without parole.

Opponents of the law, including the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, argued that every death row inmate would file an appeal, further clogging up the courts.

“It also creates more uncertainty for the families of victims of Ohio's most heinous crimes and allows the offender yet another opportunity to cause victims' families more pain,” Vic Vigluicci, Portage County Prosecutor, testified in October 2019.

But Tim Young, the state public defender, said mass filings are unlikely. He noted in September 2019 testimony that only 9% of Ohio death row inmates pursued a claim when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing people with mental disabilities was unconstitutional. and only 4% — eight people — were successful.

Meanwhile, the future of executions in Ohio is uncertain. DeWine said last year that because of Ohio’s difficulty in finding drugs for executions, lethal injection is no longer an option, and lawmakers must choose a different method of capital punishment before any inmates can be put to death.

Pending bipartisan House and Senate bills would eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole.

The state’s last execution was July 18, 2018, when Ohio put to death Robert Van Hook for killing David Self in Cincinnati in 1985.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Faith Groups Came Together for 'Death Penalty Abolition Week' in Ohio

Ohioans across religious traditions came together as one voice last week to speak out against capital punishment.

Dozens of faith communities participated in vigils, prayer services and virtual conversations during Death Penalty Abolition Week, which came to a close Sunday with a virtual worship service, entitled, "Restorative Love, Redemptive Grace."

Rev. Sharon Risher, a death penalty abolitionist, shared the story of her path to forgiveness after her mother was among nine people gunned down in the 2015 Charleston, S.C., church shooting.

"That horrific event that killed my mother made me really delve into my soul," Risher recounted. "And I came out understanding that I could not condone the death penalty. Because I understand with my faith that God is restorative and redemptive."

Risher explained her faith helped turn her trauma into activism and eventually forgive the shooter, who is currently awaiting execution at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

"People of faith can sometimes go through the most horrific things," Risher noted. "But because of their faith, they could get to a point of forgiveness, which then leads to healing."

Oct. 19 marks 40 years since Ohio enacted its current death-penalty statute.

Rev. Jack Sullivan, Jr., executive director of the Ohio Council of Churches, said there is strong bipartisan support behind Senate Bill 103 and House Bill 183, which would abolish it.

"No one's rejecting accountability as being an important component in dealing with people who have hurt us or angered us the most," Sullivan pointed out. "But the sponsored homicide of those people is immoral, and it's illogical, and it's just wrong."

Sullivan, whose sister was murdered, thinks victims' families would be better served by redirecting money used for capital cases toward supportive services to help with their healing.

"Executions do not assist in dealing with grief," Sullivan asserted. "They do not give us wholeness or closure. They just continue the cycle of death. And co-victims need more than that. They need the state to invest in their wellbeing and their movement forward, and their restoration."

(source: clevescene.com)

OKLAHOMA:

Execution Date For Julius Jones, 5 Others In Jeopardy After Federal Appeals Ruling

In 10 days, the State of Oklahoma is set to execute its 1st death row inmate in nearly 7 years.

John Marion Grant is the 1st of 7, followed by Julius Jones, in line to be executed over the next several months.

However, a Friday ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals may further delay the state’s plan to resume executions.

6 of the 7 prisoners with pending execution dates were dismissed from a lengthy federal lawsuit challenging the state’s execution protocols after the group failed to respond to a federal judge’s order to select an alternative execution method. More than 20 death row inmates remain on the case after responding to the questionnaire.

Execution dates for John Marion Grant, Julius Jones, Wade Lay, Donald Grant, Gilbert Postelle and James Coddington were set after they were dismissed from the case. A 7th inmate, Bigler Stouffer, was never part of the lawsuit, but was also given an execution date.

On Friday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said the federal judge should not have made a final judgement against the 6 while the remaining defendants’ case against the protocol moves forward.

“The district court abused its discretion in certifying its judgment as final," and should have waited until after the trial before determining final judgement, according to court documents.

Attorneys for the 6 said then-Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter made a May 2020 commitment to the court to not request execution dates while the case moved forward. They argue now that an appeals court has added the six back to the case, their execution dates should be rescinded.

According to a transcript of the hearing provided by the Federal Public Defender’s Office, when asked about execution dates for those still in the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot said, “I had the representation last March from none other than the Attorney General of Oklahoma that that would not happen. And if we should have any indication that that will happen, I will be, to put it mildly, immediately available, so it's not necessary to address that.”

Asked Monday if Attorney General John O’Connor will uphold the commitment made by his predecessor, the attorney general’s office declined to comment.

“A lot of it comes down to whether or not they are going to honor that agreement,” Assistant Federal Public Defender Jennifer Moreno said.

She said there are no “procedural hurdles” that would bar the prisoners from being executed, aside from the commitment made to the court in 2020.

“If the state does honor it’s agreement, then these prisoners won’t be executed until the outstanding questions around the protocol have been resolved even if they didn’t opt in on an alternative certainly we will hear from the court of the constitutionality of the procedures, as we should before executions go forward," she said.

Grant is scheduled to be executed October 28. The trial challenging the state’s execution protocol is set for February 2022.

(source: news9.com)

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

Federal Appeals Court Reinstates Oklahoma Death-Row Prisoners to Lawsuit in Decision That May Require State to Vacate Execution Dates

In a decision with potential to vacate a number of Oklahoma execution dates, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has held that a lower federal court abused its discretion in dismissing 6 death-row prisoners from a lawsuit challenging the state’s execution protocol.

The appeals court decision, issued on October 15, 2021, said that a ruling by Judge Stephen Friot of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma that 6 death-row prisoners who had not designated an alternative method for Oklahoma to execute them could no longer be parties to the prisoner’s execution challenge was not a final judgment against them. As a result, they will remain parties to the lawsuit until the district court conducts a trial, scheduled for early 2022, and resolves whether Oklahoma’s 3-drug execution process is unconstitutionally torturous.

The prisoners have argued that the U.S. Supreme Court requires them to allege that the state has an alternative method to execute them, which the lawsuit does, not to designate a particular method for their own execution. “Although a district court’s decision to [certify a judgment as final] merits substantial deference,” the appeals court wrote, “we conclude the district court abused its discretion in certifying its judgement as final.”

State officials had told the court that no executions would be scheduled while the prisoners’ execution challenge was still pending. Following Friot’s ruling, however, state prosecutors sought and were granted execution dates for five of the men Friot dismissed from the case.

The state had set execution dates for John Grant (Oct. 28), Julius Jones (Nov. 18), Donald Grant (Jan. 27, 2022), Gilbert Postelle (Feb. 17), and James Coddington (Mar. 10) after Judge Friot removed them from the litigation in August. Dale Baich, one of the attorneys representing the death-row prisoners in the execution protocol lawsuit, said their execution dates should be vacated: “The Attorney General made a commitment to the court and the parties that the state would not carry out executions while this case was pending in the district court. Now that the plaintiffs are back in the lawsuit, we expect the Attorney General to keep his promise and ask the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate the scheduled execution dates.”

At a March 2020 hearing in the case, Judge Friot made it clear that he would intervene in any scheduled execution of a prisoner who was party to the lawsuit. “I had the representation last March from none other than the Attorney General of Oklahoma that [the state would not set execution dates]. And if we should have indication that that will happen,” Judge Friot said, “I will be, to put it mildly, immediately available.”

The prisoners’ lawsuit concerns the state’s plan to carry out executions using a three-drug combination of the sedative midazolam, the paralytic drug vecuronium bromide, and the heart-stopping chemical, potassium chloride. The prisoners argue that the drug protocol violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Their lawsuit alleges, based on execution-autopsy results, that the use of midazolam causes a sense of suffocation from “flash pulmonary edema” — an almost immediate build-up of fluid in the lungs — while the prisoner is conscious, followed by “chemical suffocation” as the paralytic drug shuts down the lungs, and the pain of being chemically “burned alive” by the potassium chloride. Judge Friot has scheduled a trial to begin on February 28, 2022.

A separate lawsuit was filed in October seeking to obtain information about the state’s lethal-injection drugs. Retired attorney Fred Hodara sued the Oklahoma Department of Corrections after prison officials denied his public records requests for information on the source of the drugs, their price, and the quantity the state has obtained.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

Cornellians and Ithacans Rally, Oppose Execution Of Man On Oklahoma Death Row

“An innocent man is on death row,” a crowd of Cornell students and Ithaca residents chanted as they walked from Ho Plaza to the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, advocating to stop the execution of Julius Jones, who is in prison in Oklahoma.

The rally, organized by the Cornell People’s Organizing Collective, was intended to raise awareness of Jones’s case and oppose the death penalty in general. Many protesters said that they hoped that they could be part of a national effort attempting to sway Gov. Kevin Stitt (R-Ok) to stop the execution.

Jones was convicted of the 1999 murder of Paul Howell in 2002 and sentenced to death. However, he appealed the decision, claiming that he did not receive a fair trial and was racially discriminated against, and he has maintained his innocence since.

Speakers included Danielle Smith ’24 and Samantha Ivey ’24 from the People’s Organizing Collective — an organization intended to help students fight injustice at Cornell and outside it , Ute Ritz-Deutch and Wayles Browne from the Ithaca chapter of Amnesty International leadership and Associate Director at the Center on Death Penalty Worldwide Chelsea Halstead. Some, including Ivey, who has advocated for racial justice since middle school, felt a personal connection to Jones’s story.

“Julius was convicted of this crime when he was 19 years old. I have Black brothers, a Black father, Black cousins,” Ivey told the Sun. “Any time that I see someone in a situation like Julius’s, I feel that could have been someone I knew.”

Many protestors’ reasons for opposing the death penalty ranged from religious conviction to racial justice concerns. The Cornell protesters are not alone in their support for Jones’s release. Over 6.4 million people have signed a petition calling for justice for Jones, and letters of support have been written by people including Director of the Equal Justice Initiative Attorney Bryan Stevenson, Oklahoma State Senator George Young and the Oklahoma American Civil Liberties Union.

“When will the [criminal justice] system finally consider the trauma that it places on Black families?” protest organizer Smith asked the crowd. “Julius Jones is not your scapegoat to prove that the state’s cracking down on crime. Julius Jones is a living breathing man who has been sitting on death row for half of his life despite his innocence and his life matters.”

Smith first learned about Julius Jones’s incarceration in the summer of 2020 through social media and began to write letters to him. When Smith learned that Jones’s execution was scheduled for this November, she quickly began organizing a protest and reaching out to Jones’s family members, to advocate on behalf of Jones and to increase awareness of the death penalty among students.

Josiah Rutledge, grad, was at the protest because he wants people to be more aware of how often those who are sentenced to death are exonerated — for every nine people executed in the United States, one is exonerated. He sees this statistic as an indication that courts struggle to accurately determine guilt.

Wayles Browne, the treasurer of the Ithaca chapter of Amnesty International, an international human rights focused nonprofit, was at the protest because he sees the death penalty as a violation of the United Declaration of Human Rights’ guarantee to life. However, he is hopeful looking forward because of student involvement in the event. Some protestors — including John Coffey ‘23, part of the Cornell Catholic Community’s Spirituality Committee, and Laurie Konwinski, coordinator of Justice & Peace Ministry for Catholic Charities of Tompkins and Tioga County — oppose the death penalty in part because of their Catholic faith. “I believe that life is a gift from God, and it is sacred. Every single human life, no matter the condition, is great, and we are all made in the image of God,” Konwinski said. “We don’t have the right to take that gift away from anybody. It’s not our right.” Konwinski plans both to advocate for Jones as well as to encourage others in the local Catholic community to do the same, especially if they have family members or friends in Oklahoma. Halstead believes that death penalty abolition is an important step in criminal justice reform. According to Halstead, who encouraged students to become involved in anti-death penalty advocacy, public pressure can make an impact on death sentence cases. “Petitions, engaging on social media and sharing press are really effective ways to get people to take a second look at folks who are sentenced to death,” Halstead said. Ivey sees the fight for Jones’s freedom as both essential in its own right and as part of a wider fight for racial equity. “An innocent man is about to die for a crime he did not commit, and that is not justice,” she said. “Our fights will not end until he is off of death row, and is alive, healthy and safe.” (source: The Cornell Daily Sun)

USA:

Ending the federal death penalty would bolster our democracy

On Oct. 13, hearing the case of United States v. Tsarnaev, the surviving “Boston Marathon bomber,” the Supreme Court’s conservative justices signalled that they will reverse a soundly reasoned federal Court of Appeals’ ruling and reinstate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence. The case not only challenges our legal process, it also tests President Biden’s promise to work “to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level.”

It is no great surprise that conservative justices favor the death penalty and appear unreceptive to Tsarnaev’s appeal. But it is surprising and disappointing when Biden’s Justice Department asks the court to reinstate Tsarnaev’s sentence.

The stakes go beyond his life. Underlying every death case is the vibrancy of our form of government. The challenge that capital punishment poses to democracy is an underappreciated underpinning of efforts to end it in the United States.

Capital punishment is a vestige of monarchical prerogatives which allow a single person to decide who lives or dies. In today’s world, autocrats love capital punishment and use it to crush and intimidate political opponents.

Visiting it upon so-called “enemies of the state” demonstrates their dominance. According to French philosopher Michel Foucault, the ultimate expression of sovereign power is the “right to take life or let live.” For would-be dictators, merging the death penalty with unconstrained executive power is a marriage of considerable convenience.

Check out national leaders around the world who crave the power to kill their enemies.

Hungary abolished the death penalty in 1990. But its current strongman, Viktor Orban, wants to restore it in the European Union, currently a death penalty-free zone. Orban’s the guy who cracks down on a free press, rails against LGBT people, and blames George Soros for flooding Christian Hungary with Muslims.

Rodrigo Duterte, the autocratic Philippines president, also wants to bring back the death penalty as part of his brutal “war on drugs.” Capital punishment ended there in 2006. China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia — none paragons of democracy — lead the world in death sentences and executions.

At home, Donald Trump, this nation’s most autocratic president, was also a death penalty enthusiast. He rushed to kill 13 death row inmates on his way out the White House door.

We’ve seen dictators’ love affair with the death penalty before.

On Feb. 27, 1933, four weeks after becoming German Chancellor and the day after the Reichstaag fire, Adolph Hitler had the death penalty authorized for arson. A month later, he had that decree applied retroactively to cover the date of the fire.

In the 1934 Soviet Union, dictator Josef Stalin, made the number of official executions “a state secret in an effort to hide the full scope of his purges.” With “l’etat, c’est moi” absolutism, transparency about such things is unnecessary because neither it, nor life itself, is of value.

By contrast, in a country like ours, built on the principles of philosopher John Locke, individual life and liberty along with rationality, are ideals. Hence, from the start, there was something not quite right about the death penalty in America.

Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, described the death penalty as “the natural offspring of monarchical governments . . . An execution in a republic is like a human sacrifice in a religion.”

The finality of the death penalty has always made it seem anomalous in a society whose checks-and-balances constitution acknowledges human susceptibility to error. Capital punishment is the ultimate assertion of righteous indignation and undemocratic infallibility.

Today, those like Bryan Stevenson and Equal Justice Initiative, dramatized in the film “Just Mercy,” have shown that our court system makes more mistakes than it cares to admit. They also teach that death sentences fall unequally on people of color and deny dignity to executioners and executed alike.

To date, strongmen like Orban and Duterte have been unable to overcome abolition and use the death penalty on opponents. In years to come, were an autocrat to take power here, we would need multiple barriers to government’s control over life and limb.

That is why our first openly abolitionist president needs to act as he said he would. Regrettably, Biden has both found himself on the wrong side of the Tsarnaev case and failed to end federal capital punishment.

As former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan once observed “[W]hen the state punishes with death, it denies the humanity and dignity of the victim and transgresses the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.” Ending capital punishment, Brennan continued, would be “a great day for our country, and also for our Constitution.”

It is time for Biden to heed Brennan’s admonition and to turn federal death row prisoners into “lifers.” Doing so would advance his agenda to restore and revitalize our democracy.

(source: Austin Sarat (@ljstprof) is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College. He is author of numerous books on America's death penalty, including Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America's Death Penalty. The views expressed here do not represent Amherst College.

Dennis Aftergut is a former federal prosecutor; thehill.com)

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

Suffolk Law Professor Calls Biden Admin’s Support For Tsarnaev Death Penalty ‘Inconsistent’

On GBH's Boston Public Radio Monday, Suffolk University Law professor Renée Landers acknowledged a disconnect between President Biden’s public stance opposing federal death penalties and the actions of his own Justice Department, which is currently asking the Supreme Court to reinstate that penalty for convicted Boston Bomber Dhokhar Tsarnaev.

“I don’t fully understand it,” she told hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, adding later that the situation “seems rather inconsistent with President Biden’s fundamental opposition to the death penalty.”

In the case of Tsarnaev, the DOJ is asking the nation’s highest court to overturn a 2020 decision by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the 28-year-old’s death sentence on procedural grounds.

“I think there are 2 possible rationalizations,” Landers said. “One is that they’re just trying to uphold what the historical position of the Justice Department has been in this particular case, and not [flip-flop] on particular cases because of a change in administration.”

In October 2020, then-President Trump's Justice Department first appealed the ruling by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. The reaffirmation by Biden's administration came in June of this year.

The 2nd justification Landers offered was the possibility that the administration fears bad optics ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

“I think sometimes Democrats are very wary of appearing to be soft on crime,” she said. “Here we have a specific case, obviously a very heinous crime… I think that that could be an additional motivating factor.”

During his presidential campaign, then-candidate Biden was firm in his stance against the death penalty. On his campaign website, he outlined his intentions as such: “Because we cannot ensure we get death penalty cases right every time, Biden will work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example.”

And though Biden hasn’t offered public comment on the issue since taking office, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in March that he continues to have “grave concerns” about whether federal executions are consistent with “the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness.”

Even if the conservative-leaning Supreme Court sides with the Biden administration’s request, Landers noted that Tsarnaev would still be protected by Attorney General Merrick Garland’s temporary moratorium on federal executions. But, she said, that wouldn’t prevent a future president (or Biden himself) from lifting that moratorium down the line.

“A subsequent president could actually carry out an execution,” she acknowledged.

Though there's plenty of uncertainty surrounding the case, Landers noted one definite: if Tsarnaev is moved to death row, he's likely remain there for years or decades, where his fate will continue to fuel headlines and public discourse.

“From time to time, there will be public comment on it,” she said. “I think in some ways, saying ‘no death penalty, life in prison without parole’ might just make it the end of the story.”

(source: WGBH news)

GLOBAL:

Death penalty mapped: The 91 places where capital punishment still exists----THE DEATH PENALTY is still a form of punishment in many countries around the globe, but in the wake of October 10 which marks the World Day Against the Death Penalty, many are curious about which nations still practice this sentence?

The death penalty is one of the most controversial topics of modern life. French leader Emmanuel Macron revealed earlier this month he intends to use his upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU to launch a global campaign to abolish capital punishment. A conservative estimate states more than 480 executions were undertaken by 33 political regimes in 2020, but most experts admit this is an “underestimated number”.

Last year at least 483 people were known to have been executed.

This is the lowest figure recorded by Amnesty International for a decade - with executions falling 26 % compared to 2019.

A total of 657 deaths were registered as a result of the death penalty in 2019.

The peak number of executions was recorded in 2015 when 1,634 people were confirmed to have died as a result of the death penalty by the international human rights group.

In 2020, the most executions took place in China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

China was the world’s top executioner according to Amnesty International, but data on the death penalty is classified as a state secret.

Amnesty International’s 2020 report reads: “China continued to execute and sentence to death thousands of people but kept figures secret.”

The global human rights organisation stopped publishing its estimated figures on the use of the death penalty in China in 2009.

Aside from China, the following 4 countries accounted for 88 % of all known executions in 2020.

At least 246 were reported in Iran, 107 in Egypt, 45 in Iran and 27 in Saudi Arabia.

Executions were recorded by Amnesty International in 18 countries, which is 2 fewer than in 2019.

Elsewhere around the globe, the following number of executions were recorded globally:

The USA: 17

Somalia: 11

Yemen: 5

India: 4

Oman: 4

Botswana: 3

South Suda: 2

Bangladesh: 2

Qatar: 1

Taiwan: 1

Vietnam: Unknown

North Korea: Unknown

Syria: Unknown.

No executions were known to be enacted in Bahrain, Belarus, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore or Suda, where these countries executed people in the previous two years.

But which countries still retain laws allowing the death penalty?

According to Amnesty International data published in April 2021, 109 countries had banned the use of the death penalty by law.

In addition, 8 countries retain the death penalty only for serious crimes, such as those committed during times of war.

A further 28 countries retain the death penalty in law but have not executed anyone for at least 10 years.

Finally, 55 countries retain the death penalty in law - with just 18 having executed people in 2020.

This means capital punishment “still exists” in 91 countries overall.

There were 5 different methods of execution enacted in 2020 - the most common methods being hanging and shooting.

These 2 methods were used in 15 countries.

Lethal injection is the most widely and common method utilised in the USA, but some states also use other techniques included a gas chamber, electrocution, hanging and firing squad.

Beheading with a sword is the predominant form of execution in Saudi Arabia.

At the end of 2020, at least 28,567 people were known to be under sentence of death.

9 countries held 82 % of the known totals included:

Iraq: 7,900

Pakistan: 4,000

Nigeria: 2,700

USA: 2,485

Bangladesh: 1,800

Malaysia: 1,314

Vietnam: 1,200

Kenya: 1,000

Sri Lanka: 1,000.

Amnesty International recorded at least 1,477 death sentences in 54 countries in 2020, a decrease of 36% from the total of 2,307 reported in 2019.

At least 28,567 people were known to be under sentence of death globally at the end of 2020.

Amnesty International believes the death penalty should be abolished completely as it breaches human rights, in particular the right to life and the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

The organisation said: “The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it.”

However, international law still permits the use of the death penalty for the most serious crimes.

When Amnesty International started its work campaigning to abolish the death penalty around the world in 1977, only 16 countries had completely abolished it.

However, now 108 countries have abolished it, which is more than half the world’s countries.

(source: express.co.uk)

SOUTH KOREA:

Japan-linked Korean ex death-row inmate acquitted of spying

A former South Korean resident of Japan, who had been convicted as a North Korean spy and sentenced to death in 1983 in South Korea, was acquitted Tuesday of illegally collecting intelligence, people once close to the now deceased man said.

The Seoul High Court ruled that Son Yoo Hyung, who was detained in the South Korean capital in 1981 for allegedly working under agents from Pyongyang's ruling Workers Party of Korea, was not guilty.

Son had been imprisoned for 17 years in South Korea until 1998, when he was released on parole. He died at 84 in 2014, and his family sought the retrial of the case.

The same court had earlier determined in the retrial of Son's relatives and others, who were charged as his conspirators, that intelligence agents illegally detained Son for 45 days without a warrant, and thus records of his subsequent interrogations should not be admitted as evidence.

From the 1970s to the 1980s, similar false accusation cases occurred in South Korea, which was then under military dictatorship, and at least 36 South Korean residents of Japan and their relatives were convicted of spying. They were acquitted in retrials.

South Korean authorities at the time apparently sought to fuel perceptions of the North Korean threat in a bid to suppress people's demand for democratization by detaining South Koreans who had lived in Japan, which hosts supporters of both Koreas, and accusing them of being spies.

Son, a native of Jeju Island in southern part of today's South Korea, moved to Japan during World War II and lived in Osaka while being involved in movements advocating rights of Korean residents and the activities of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, known as Chongryon.

But after having a problem with the executives of Chongryon, Son acquired South Korean nationality and worked as a trader.

(source: Kyodo News)

INDIA:

Tomorrow AT 5.30 PM - Deathworthy - A Discussion On Mental Health Perspective Of Death Penalty -Justice S. Muralidhar

(see: https://www.livelaw.in/webinar/deathworthy-a-discussion-on-mental-health-perspective-of-death-penalty-justice-s-muralidhar-183878)

ZIMBABWE:

Death sentence for Hwedza murderer

A HIGH Court judge yesterday sentenced a Hwedza man to death for the constructive murder of his employer in 2015 and throwing the body into Rhodesville Dam.

Tapiwa Murombo was yesterday found guilty of the premeditated murder of Partson Musarandoga by High Court judge, Justice Priscillah Munangati-Manongwa.

Musarandoga’s body was found in the dam days after he went missing. Murombo was arrested after a high speed chase by the police along the Harare-Chirundu Highway.

The convict had denied the charge, saying he did not murder Musarandoga since he parted with him after he had agreed to give him a vehicle in lieu of a US$4 000 debt.

But Justice Munangati-Manongwa ruled that Murombo had failed to exonerate himself of the murder.

“The court finds that the reasons advanced were not such as to convince the court not to pass the death sentence. In essence, after taking all factors into account, this court finds that there are no circumstances of a mitigating nature that would call for a lesser sentence.

“Neither a life sentence nor a sentence of not less than 20 years will meet the justice of the case,” Munangati Manongwa ruled.

She said Murombo was not in the group that is excluded from the death sentence as stipulated by section 48(2)(c) of the Constitution.

“The accused shall be returned to prison, be held until the execution of the sentence according to law,” she ruled.

In 2015, Murombo allegedly struck Musarandoga on the head with an axe at a farm along the Hwedza Highway before disappearing.

After committing the crime, Murombo forged a suicide note directing him to sell properties from the deceased’s home. Following a tip-off, the police pursued him along the Harare-Chirundu Highway in a high-speed chase. He was shot on the leg as he tried to escape.

(source: newsday.co.zw)

NIGERIA:

Mixed reactions trail plea bargain concept in criminal justice administration

Stakeholders in the judiciary have expressed mixed reactions on the ‘Plea Bargain’ concept in the administration of Criminal Justice in the country.

They particularly expressed concern over the judgment delivered by Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo, of the Lagos Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, on 23-year old Chef, Joshua Usulor, who was sentenced to 28 years for the murder of a 34-year-old lawyer, Mrs. Feyisayo Obot.

Justice Taiwo sentenced Usulor after the accused pleaded guilty to the amended charge brought against him by the Lagos State government. Usulor, a chef, had on January 26, 2019, killed Obot at the Citiheights Hotel, Opebi, Lagos, where both of them lodged in different rooms.

He killed the Abuja-based mother of 2, by slitting her throat while robbing her in her hotel room. He was apprehended and arraigned on a count charge of murder contrary to Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2015.

Usulor thereafter decided to avoid maximum punishment on conviction by taking advantage of the provision of the plea bargain option in the criminal justice law. Consequently, he approached the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) for a plea bargain agreement.

The prosecution had called witnesses, who testified during the trial. The witnesses are the hotel receptionist, Ms. Lateefat Adebayo; the hotel’s Operations Manager, Mr. Olabanji Ibitunde; brother of the deceased, Mr Ige Afolabi and the Investigative Police Officer, Inspector John Babalola.

While delivering judgment, Justice Taiwo sentenced Usulor to 28 years imprisonment as against the 21 years recommended in the plea bargain agreement approved by the DPP, which commenced from the date of Usulor’s remand.

Justice Taiwo vehemently rejected the proposed 21 years prison term, saying that it was too lenient. The judge said she would exercise the power conferred on her by Section 75 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law to increase the prison term to 30 years. She eventually reduced Usulor’s sentence to 28 years in prison following a leniency plea by counsel to the accused, Mr Spurgeon Ataene.

Ataene pleaded that the court should temper justice with mercy. He also said the defendant was remorseful, adding that he was a young man with a promising future.

The defence counsel’s submission prompted the judge to ask Usulor why he killed the lawyer. Usulor responded that it was a mistake, that he didn’t know what got into him to commit the act. But the judge told him that his mistake had cost someone her life.

The prosecution team led by Mrs. O.A. Bajulaiye-Bishi, had told the court that Usulor, a resident of Number 30, Fadiya Street, Ketu, Lagos, went into the lawyer’s hotel room to rob her to offset his outstanding hotel bills.

Obot, an employee of an Abuja-based non-governmental organisation, Save the Children, was in Lagos to write a project management examination.

Plea bargain has been part of the justice delivery system for over a decade in many jurisdictions and of course, in Lagos State, the former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos, Mr Adeniji Kazeem, said the state government recognised the fact that there are many challenges facing the criminal justice system in Nigeria, especially in Lagos State, given its high population.

Kazeem said the state government adopted it as a reasonable and creative measure in its prison decongestion drive. He said since the government launched the Plea Bargain Manual, it has since served as a quick and efficient means of justice delivery that builds the confidence of citizens in the sector.

However, the September 22, 2021 sentencing of Usulor is generating mixed reactions. While some are of the view that the sentence was too lenient, despite the fact that the judge scaled it up slightly, others think that the term is enough retribution for the convict.

Lagos lawyer, Wahab Abdullah, said the offence of murder is a serious crime, which punishment is clearly stipulated when conviction takes place.

“Therefore, whenever a court of competent jurisdiction is saddled with the responsibility of sitting over such case, it behoves the court to strictly implement the law to the letter.

“Section 319 (1) of the Criminal Code provides for the offence of murder and stipulates the punishment thereof. If a suspect is accused of murder, the punishment is the death penalty as prescribed by law,” he insisted.

According to him, in the case of Oyedele vs State, the court stated what constitutes offence of murder and the punishment. They are that: “A person is guilty of murder if the offender intends to cause the death of the person killed, or that of some other person; or the offender intends to do to the person killed or to some other person grievous bodily harm.”

Still citing cases, Abdullah said in Adeyemi vs The State, the court held that it is immaterial that the offender did not intend to hurt his/her victim. For instance, by virtue of section 319(1) of the Criminal Law of Ogun State, subject to the provisions of the section, any person, he maintained, who commits the offence of murder shall be sentenced to death.

He said: “In its nature, murder and punishment is a serious crime that carries death penalty. To this end, with due respect to the trial court, the law never envisaged or stipulated a plea bargain for a murder case, especially when the offender admitted to committing the offence as provided for by the Criminal Code.

“In respect of the law under which the convict was charged and sentenced by the Court, which is the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015, section 223 only presumes that the offender committed manslaughter, not murder, contrary to the offence committed by the convict.

“If the convict admitted to having killed or murdered his victim, he never committed manslaughter but murder. There is the intention to commit the offence by maiming and killing the deceased, which was executed by the convict.

“The same provision in the Criminal Law of Lagos State never provide for a plea bargain. Section 223 under which the convict was charged was for voluntary manslaughter, which invariably prescribes a prison term. However, the convict was said to have confessed to killing or murder of the lawyer, so, one wonders why he was charged for manslaughter.”

From the wisdom of the prosecution team, the lawyer lamented that he is at a loss at why the convict was charged under the provision, having pleaded guilty for the offence of murder.

He stressed that the convict ought to have been convicted for murder, not minding his plea bargain. “The same provision in the Criminal Law of Lagos State never provide for a plea bargain, having pleaded guilty to the offence of murder,” he argued.

A female lawyer, Abiodun Kolawole, argued that a plea bargain does not confer on the judge discretion to impose lesser sentence.

According to her, the suspect was convicted for manslaughter. The defendant, he noted, applied for a plea bargain during the trial within a trial, when the statement of the defendant was tendered.

“Plea bargain does not confer on the judge discretion to impose a lesser sentence in cases of mandatory sentences. The defence of mistake pleaded could not be sustained because there was no trial. The sentence was anomalous. The charge ought to have been amended to a lesser one to attract lesser sentence. Whenever a court convicts for murder, the sentence of capital punishment is not negotiable,” she declared.

Kolawole said all the evidence before the court, including CCTV footage, was tendered before the court but regretted that “the defence counsel only took advantage of a plea bargain so that a death sentence would not be passed on his client.”

She stated that when the judge rejected the term of 21 years of imprisonment approved by the Attorney General and decided to impose 28 years, it served as proof that the judge can exercise discretion even in the face of a plea bargain agreement.

However, the convener, Access to Justice, Mr. Joseph Otteh, believes that the jail term is long enough for reflection and repentance. While he agreed that it is unfortunate that someone died in the process, he said killing the convict won’t restore the already lost life.

He said: “It is unfortunate that someone died from this wanton, horrible crime and brutality. And whatsoever the punishment, that life is irretrievable, irreplaceable and non-compensable. I’m not a judge and would not want to second-guess the judge’s estimate of the punishment awarded, but I think the judge made the right call.

“28 years is a long time, and perhaps long enough for personal reflection and repentance. Maybe, at the end of the tunnel, the opportunity of a 2nd chance at life might count for something.”

Another legal practitioner, Mr. Olatunji Sunday Martins, said that the sentence was not too lenient. According to him, the culprit came up with a plea bargain arrangement, which is an indication that he has become remorseful. He added that in legal parlance, the essence of a plea bargain, most times, is to earn lesser punishment.

“The culprit, who came up with plea bargain may not necessarily earn death sentence as expected by most citizens because of the gravity of the offence think otherwise,” he pointed out.

(source: guardian.ng)

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‘States should be allowed to appoint own judges’

Former Lagos State Solicitor-General, Lawal Pedro, SAN, in this interview with ADEBISI ONANUGA, speaks on delay in justice delivery, why states should appoint own judges, including judiciary independence, EndSARS, VAT.

You were a public servant in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for almost 2 decades. What was the experience like?

I got into the Lagos State Ministry of Justice just after my Call to Bar in 1986. My plan was to work there just for 2 years but I found myself working for nearly two decades there. Working there was a wonderful experience as I rose through the ranks to become a Permanent Secretary and Solicitor General in the Ministry. I was also lucky to have been rewarded with the honour of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, as a sitting civil servant. That was the first time any civil servant in Nigeria would be awarded with such an honour. That is different from those who came into the Ministry and became SAN. Lagos State Ministry of Justice is not a Ministry, it is a law office and perhaps the biggest and largest law firm in Nigeria and Sub-Sahara Africa. For any lawyer that wants to excel, there are opportunities there; for those that want to just be- alone, it accommodates; and for those that wants to be lazy and get paid 30 days after, it also accommodates them because it is a civil service. Some of us were really devoted to the work while others had the I-don’t-care attitude. MOJ developed me so much and I will ever remain grateful for the opportunity to have worked there particularly with ogas such as Hon Justice Nurain Kessington, Alhaja Wonu Folami, former Attorney General, Hon Justice Bode Rhodes -Vivour, Hon Justice Ayo Phillips,Hon Justice Doris Okuwobi, Mr Fola Arthur-Worrey Prof yemi Osinbajo,SAN, GCON and Current Vice President of Nigeria and Mr Ade Ipaye, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President of Nigeria . I had a good time in the Ministry and some of those hardworking staffs I left behind are still doing great there.

What were some of the challenges you faced in the ministry as Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary?

The challenges I faced was as a result of what you can call Civil Service mentality. As at the time I was appointed Solicitor-General, I happened to be one of the most junior directors. That meant I had seniors in age, at the bar and in the service before I was pulled to become Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary. That was against the Civil Service rule which stipulates that the most senior director becomes Permanent Secretary. Understandably some persons didn’t like that but some knew I had put up a lot of industry to earn the promotion. Some who didn’t like me would smile at me but behind me, they were doing other things. They were also uproar after my appointment and some people said I got the appointment because I was a Lagosian, others said I was Prof Osinbajo boy that was left behind. But I will forever remained grateful to HE Senator Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who insisted on my appointment.The good thing that later happen was that few months after my appointment, my name came out as one of those awarded the Senior Advocate of Nigeria. That simply put the matter to rest because by virtue of my new status, I became the most senior lawyer in the Ministry.

Can you recall some of the major cases you handled for the state?

There are many of them but I will just mention a few of them. The case of Reverend King was one of them because as Solicitor-General, I was the coordinator of all high profile criminal cases then. I worked with the then Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, who is now a High Court Judge. The case of Major Hamzat Al-Mustapha which was boggled through petitions against the presiding judge, Justice Ade Alabi also comes to mind. When the matter started de novo and I led the prosecution, we secured conviction but regrettably the conviction was upturned by the Court of Appeal. I was also involved in all constitution matters for or against the Lagos State government in the Supreme Court. For instance the Ikoyi land dispute between Lagos State and the Federal Government and Hotel Occupancy and tourism case which we secured victory at the Supreme Court.

Despite global advocacy for the abolition of death sentence, Nigeria continues to retain death penalty in her status law. What is your position on death penalty?

I believe that death penalty has outlived its purpose and the status creating it should be reviewed. The question we should all consider is whether death penalty has served as deterrent to offence which it is created to cure. The answer is no. We should also ask ourselves whether it is of any value to the society. With due respect, the answer is also no.

As a country, I sincerely think we should have developed beyond this stage. Our prison centres should have developed beyond where we are today. We have vast land in the country where we can build new prison facilities and send these convicted criminals there to farm. In Epe for instance, there are island that can only be access through boat. We can build new prison facilities in a place like that and send them there. Whilst there, they can become useful to themselves and the society instead of just killing them because they have committed offences that attract death penalty.

For those clamouring that by abolishing death penalty, there will be no justice for the dead victim, the question they should consider is whether by killing the condemned person, will it restore the victim who is already death? I would rather advocate for the Islamic jurisprudence position of the issue which posit that for such action, the convicted person should be made to cater for the family of the person he or she has killed.

Unfortunate that is not applicable to our common law practice. We should be seriously considering restorative system of justice instead of just killing people who have committed capital offences. The irony of the matter is even laughable because though the death penalty status remains, no condemned inmate have been executed in recent time. They remain a burden to the country because tax payers’ money is used to feed them daily. We can make them productive to the nation and that should be the focus of reform in the justice sector.

Recently, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, summoned judges over conflicting judgments and improper granting of ex-parte orders. What do you think is the real problem with our legal system?

There is need for discipline among our colleagues. When some judges were summoned over conflicting judgment and grant of ex-parte motion, I felt that was not the solution to the problem in the justice system. I recall that when I left the MOJ and appeared before a judge in a private matter, the judge who was unaware that I had already left the ministry was shocked and confused because there was no matter involving the State before him. Obviously he did not read the newspapers or watch the news on television to know about my retirement from service. Benefit of doubt should actually be given to some of the judges that were summoned. I know that some of these judges actually try to insulate themselves from what is happening around them so they base their decisions on evidence before them. I think lawyers that present cases before the judges should be blamed for some of these controversial matters. Some of them know that an order had been granted in another court over same issue but would still bring same subject matter before another judge. In actual fact, the lawyers should take more blame of this issue of conflicting judgment than judges.

What particular areas do you think government should focus on?

Nigeria should spend more on security and justice. When that is done, you will see rapid development. There is no reason why a case should last more than 18 months in court. In the magistrate court, it should be 6 months. It is only then that investment will be drawn to the country. When anybody wants to invest in a country, there is bound to be dispute or breach of contract but we must have an effective justice system that would evoke confidence that such dispute would be fairly resolved. If a suspect is prosecuted and convicted within six months, most people who want to engage in similar crime will caution themselves. What is happening now is that even the suspect who is arrested for a crime will be the one urging the law enforcement agencies to charge him or her to the court because the know that the matter will remain there forever.

What do you think the judiciary can do to quicken justice delivery?

We don’t have to copy other countries blindly. We must look at our own peculiar situation and find a workable solution. For example, in as much as the constitution remains the way it is presently, Lagos State should have not less than 100 judges. The challenge is that the appointment has to go through NJC, and that is an absurd federal system. Why should the federal government be paying the salary of a judge of the High Court of a State? State should take care of their judges and determine how many they want. If I had my way, every Local Government in Lagos must have a High Court. How can one be leaving in Igando area and be going to Iganmu to do a case. There should be a High Court there with not less than three judges sitting there. That is the ideal case but how do you now ask the federal government to fund them. If you ask for 10 judges for Lagos, Federal Government will look at its budget and say they cannot afford to approve more than 6. In some jurisdiction outside Lagos, the total cases in the entire court is not up to the list of one High Court judge in Lagos. Meanwhile the judge will collect same salary with his counterpart in Lagos. My suggestion is that the constitution should be amended to allow states appoint their own judges. There could be some form of control by a federal agency like the NJC but appointment, management and payment of salary should be rested with the States.

The jurisdiction of the magistrate courts should also be increased to free the High Court of some cases. There are over 200 Magistrates in Lagos State, so what are they doing; Landlord and tenant matters? To me, such cases should not be more than 3 months in court. There should actually be a Mediation Centre annexed to the Magistrate. So first hearing of cases should go the Mediation Centre. Once rent issues are sorted out there amicably, housing investment and development will rise. People are selling their houses here in Nigeria and buying in London because of the ease of settling rent related disputes. So we must change the system so that people can be encouraged to invest in housing.

Is judiciary independence achievable in Nigeria?

As far as I am concern, on paper, our judiciary is autonomous. Autonomy is independence of the judiciary. What is the core function of the judiciary? Dispensation of justice. Is anyone telling the judiciary not to dispense justice? So I believe they are independent on that. When you now talk about physical and financial needs for them to perform this functions, on paper they are.

As far Nigeria in concerned today, unless the constitution is amended, the judiciary cannot be as independent as it should really be. According to the constitution, the High Court of a state is being treated as an appendage of the Federal Government because the recurrent and capital expenditure of the High Court is with the NJC. So for the state which spend money on the High Court, it just an act of being magnanimous. By the constitution, what the state should concentrate on is the magistrate court and make sure they are well taken care of. It is same thing with the police. The federal government will buy operational vehicles for the police but it is the state government that repairs them.

So to me, the judiciary is substantially independent as far as the present Nigerian Constitution is concerned. If by delivering judgment, there have been no interference, then they are independent. But when you talk about financial autonomy, my question is; in which respect? If you look at our constitution on the issue of financial autonomy, it says money standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Account shall be deducted for the judiciary. The question however is when is such money deemed to be standing to the credit of the judiciary? Is it when the budget is made? So assuming you have budgeted N100million for your Judiciary in your budget of N500million, and in the whole year, government could not make even N100million, where would the money for the judiciary be withdrawn from.

My suggestion is that judiciary should be asking for increase of their budget envelop. Most people who talk about financial autonomy have never worked in government so they don’t know how these things work. What is the percentage allocated to the judiciary in the budget? Ordinarily the budget ought to be splited into three since there are three arms of government but we know that the Executive have more responsibility, the Legislature makes laws and carried out some oversight functions while the Judiciary is there to dispense justice. I am sure the budget of the Judiciary is less than the budget of the Ministry of Works. That is where the challenge is. People should fight for increase in the budget envelop of the Judiciary instead. If for instance the Judiciary is having 4 % of the total budget of a state, then they should be asking for 10 percent so that they can have more money to be able to carry out their function.

It’s about 1 year since the EndSARS protest and all the problems that came with it. What would you advise government to do differently to avoid reoccurrence?

Well to me, the EndSARS protest is now history and we learn from history. All the issues that made the EndSARS protest come to fore, have been with us for quite some time. It is just that few people could not take any longer and decided to stage a protest to hold the government to account. I believe that government is trying to address some of the issues raised by the protester through the various panels that were set up. We should allow the panels to conclude their works and come up with recommendations, after that, we can analyze them and also make suggestion.

The EndSARS protest is just an iceberg of the larger problem that is facing us in this country. The challenges in the country are much; poverty, unemployment, insecurity and many other things led to the protest. When you have graduates who cannot find job, then what do you expect from such idle youths? It a big problem and we must all join hands together to solve them. I also thinking the banking system in the country is not helping matters. Whether they cook their books, I don’t know but every year they declare huge profit after tax and use the profit to build structures and branches which they don’t need. Such funds should have been used to give out loans for investment and development. The entities that can actually save this country are the banks and the legislatures. Banks should investment in mortgage, give industries money to grow trade and low interest rates.

What is your take on the current battle between the federal and state governments on who should collect VAT?

If anybody says the federal government has no power to collect tax, that person is wrong. We have Trade and Commercial under the Exclusive Legislative List. So if any Trade and Commerce is being taxed by federal government, it is constitutional and right. But in hotels, restaurants, event places, federal government cannot come and charge vat in those places. It is the consumption tax of Lagos, for instance, that should operate there. All the three levels of government, Federal, State and Local Government have a bit of control on trade and commerce. So it is the trade within their jurisdiction that they can charge vat on. So Federal government doesn’t have business with somebody buying a bottle of coke in a supermarket in a state. Any state that makes vat law is doing so within the power derived from the constitution. The state tax in Ogun State was declared invalid because they were trying to impose tax on good brought into the state. If I were to advise any state government, I will simply tell them to forget about tax law but enact consumption tax which will achieve the same purpose. In fact that is where double taxation can be avoided because the area consumption tax will cover will not be the same area where federal government will go into.

The security situation especially in the South-east is becoming more alarming every day. Does it not call for concern?

I feel very concern about what is going on in the east and everybody in Nigeria should really be concerned. The same way we raised the loudest voice about what happened in the North, should be the way we should raise a voice for what is happening in the east. We have been so divided in this country and it is working against us as a nation. I preach true compliance with the Federal Character Act because that is the only thing I think can safe this country if it is fully implemented religiously. IPOB, Oduduwa Republic and so many other agitations would not arise if Federal Character Act is in action in the country. Most people have not taken time to look at what the Federal Character Act prescribes for Nigerians. Even if we have poverty, with the principle of Federal Character Commission, at least we won’t have security issues. Look at what happened with the June 12 matter. At the height of the matter, it became a Western region problem alone. Now the chicken has come home to roast. We should not be looking at what is happening in the East and close our eyes because if it is not contained there, it is likely to also spill over to other parts of the country.

What motivated you to read law in the University?

I was motivated to read law by my role model and uncle, Hon Justice Muheeb Kotun who was then a Magistrate and later became a High Court Judge in Lagos. He was married to the sister to my father. He loved me like any of his children. Back then when I was 9 years and loved to play football, my family would always send me on errand anytime they are having a family meeting. On any of those meetings, the whole family would always wait till uncle Muheeb as we called him then, to come before the meeting can begin. I always wondered why he was so important that everybody would have to wait for him until my father told me that he was a magistrate. When I asked what it takes to become a Magistrate, I was told one would have to study law in the university first. Instinctively I decided I would become a lawyer so as to become important like my uncle. When he later learnt that I had gained admission to read law, he completely showered me with love and took me as his son.

(source: The Nation)

GHANA:

Amnesty International advocates for abolition of death penalty

Amnesty International (Ghana) has called on the State to abolish the death penalty in Ghana following the grave human rights violation it poses to individuals accused of crimes punishable by death in the constitution of Ghana.

The call was made at the headquarters of Amnesty International Ghana in a press briefing to mark the 19th World Day Against the Death Penalty (2021) on Tuesday, 12th October 2021 on the theme ‘Women and the Death Penalty, an invisible reality’.

Amnesty International raised a number of concerns about women on the death row, arguing that their conditions in prison do not meet international standards.

Both men and women have been reported to be in poor conditions in typically overcrowded prisons in addition to poor sanitary facilities, isolation, and lack of access to medical care and to recreational and educational opportunities available to other prisoners.

According to the Director of Amnesty International Ghana, Mr. Frank Doyi, there is currently no evidence that points to the fat that the death penalty deters crime. Research has shown that in countries where the death penalty is used, such as the United State of America, crime rates are still high. He is of the view that if human life is a fundamental human right, and killing is wrong, then the state must not be a party to taking its citizens’ lives.

Research has also shown that the death penalty targets the poor. The United Nations Human Rights has revealed that people living in poverty risk being victims because they are easy targets for the police and cannot afford a lawyer. This means that they are unable to produce expert evidence beyond their means and are unable to appeal judgements. Many of these poor people also are unable to afford bails, a situation that keeps them in police custody so that they are unable to prepare adequately for an effective defence, the United Nations Human Rights has said.

In the light of these inequalities, Amnesty international has called on the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Ghana, Hon. Godfred Yeboah Dame to put into effect the President’s directive to initiate an amendment process of the criminal and other Offences Act-1960 (Act 29) to abolish the death penalty for most offences in Ghana.

Background

The death penalty in Ghana is imposed as a mandatory punishment for murder, meaning that judges are left with no alternatives in sentencing and do not have the option of assessing the context in which the crime was committed or the background of the defendants at sentencing. This means that many who have been sentenced to death, as research has shown, committed the ‘crimes’ in self-defence, sometimes under prolonged torture at the hands of their victims and most times, sensed grave threats against their own lives.

Ghana carried the last execution in 1993 and has since not executed anyone on the death row. However, judges continue to sentence people to death, mainly because there is no alternative sentence for crimes considered as murder under the laws of Ghana. As has already been shown, judges are not allowed to assess the merits of a murder case to fully understand the circumstances under which the crime was committed, meaning that once someone has lost a life at one’s hand, the death penalty must be applied.

There are currently more than 150 people on the death row and the aim of Amnesty International Ghana is to see the removal of the Death Penalty from the constitution and other legislations in Ghana.

Amnesty international Ghana has also called on the Parliament of Ghana to support and pass the Private Member Bill that is currently before it (introduced by Hon. Francis Xavier Sosu) to remove the death penalty from the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) and replace it with other sentences such as life imprisonment.

(source: Redeemer Buatsi, Volunteer and National Yourh Leader, Amnesty International Ghana----newsghana.com.gh)

IRAN----executions

Hossein Hedayati Executed in Amol Prison

Hossein Hedayati who was sentenced to qisas(retribution-in-kind) for murder, has been executed in Amol Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed in Amol Prison on the morning of October 2. His identity has been established as 32-year-old Hossein Hedayati who was sentenced to qisasfor murder.

Informed sources told Iran Human Rights: “Hossein Hedayati was accused of committing murder during a mass fight. But according to those that knew him, someone else had committed the murder but everyone testified against Hossein.

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

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

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

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Hamed Jafarzadeh, Soheil Hojatfar and Younes Executed on Drug Charges

3 men have been executed on drug-related charges in Zanjan Central Prison. At least 92 prisoners, including a woman, have been executed on drug-related charges in Iranian prisons in 2021.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, 3 men were executed on drug-related charges in Zanjan Central Prison on October 13. The identities of the men who were all from Banab have been established as 41-year-old Hamed Jafarzadeh, 39-year-old Soheil Hojatfar and Younes (surname unknown).

“In 2018, all three of the executed men were arrested and sentenced to death as part of the same case on charges of carrying one and a half tonnes of methamphetamine and 65 AK47s and pistols,” informed sources told Iran Human Rights.

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

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, at least 25 people were executed on drug-related charges in 2020. However, at least 92 people have so far been executed on the same charge in 2021.

On May 3, IHR published a report on the death penalty in the first 4 months of 2021 expressing concern at the significant increase in the number of drug-related executions and continues to warn of the continuation of this trend.

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Baluch Mousa Shehbakhsh Executed in Zahedan

Baluch Mousa Shehbakhsh was executed on unknown charges in Zahedan Central Prison. At least 39 Baluch men have been executed in Iranian prisons in 2021.

According to the Baluch Activists Campaign, a Baluch man was executed in Zahedan Central Prison on the morning of October 18. His identity has been reported as Mousa Shehbakhsh but it is unknown what charges led to his death penalty conviction.

Mousa was transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution on October 16 and his family paid their last visit the day prior to his execution.

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 39 Baluch men have been executed in Iranian prisons since the beginning of this

(source for all: iranhr.net)

***********

Iran sets 3rd execution date in 8 days for convicted killer----Campaigners say Tehran is breaching international law by executing man for murder committed before he reached adulthood

Iran has set a 3rd date for the execution of a man convicted of a murder he committed at the age of 17 after the sentence was twice postponed amid an international outcry.

Arman Abdolali, now 25, is due to be executed on Wednesday after he was convicted of killing his girlfriend, rights group Amnesty International reported.

Iran has signed an international agreement banning the death penalty for people who committed crimes while under the age of 18.

Campaigners say Abdolali was sentenced to death in December 2015 following an unfair trial marred by confessions obtained under torture.

The Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said Abdolali confessed to the murder at the time of his arrest, but the body was never found and he later withdrew his confession.

The sentence was upheld in 2016 and he lost an appeal last year.

He has been moved to solitary confinement for a third time at Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj, on the outskirts of Tehran, in preparation for his execution, said Amnesty.

Abdolali was due to die last Wednesday and at the weekend but the execution was postponed on both occasions.

Iran executes more people each year than any other nation except China. Iran Human Rights said at least 64 juvenile offenders have been executed in the country over the past 10 years, with at least 4 executed in 2020.

In a sign of international concern over the case, Germany's human rights commissioner Baerbel Kofler said carrying out the execution would be an “unacceptable breach of international law".

“Arman Abdolali was a minor at the time of the alleged crime. There is credible evidence that his confession was obtained under torture and that the conviction thus contradicts fundamental principles of the rule of law,” she said in a statement released by the German foreign ministry.

The UN has repeatedly condemned Iran for executing child offenders, saying it is a breach of international law.

Iran signed a UN deal banning the practice in 1968 that was ratified 7 years later.

(source: thenationalnews.com)

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO:

Rowley: Striking down Bail Act for murderers not wise

THE Prime Minister is once again expressing concern about the attempts to amend the laws so murderers can be granted bail. He anticipates this will result in the floodgates to crime and violence being thrown wide open.

By the end of the year the court is expected to rule on a matter brought by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan for Section 5(1) of the Bail Act to be struck down in the matter of his client Akili Charles vs the Attorney General.

At a People’s National Movement (PNM) political meeting in La Horquetta on Saturday night, Dr Rowley said the Opposition has turned to the courts busy trying to get laws changed because of its ineffectiveness in the politics and elsewhere.

“They are all now quite busy before the Privy Council arguing that the savings law clauses in our law, meaning those laws we inherited at Independence by virtue of change of ownership of state where the Queen no longer owns us – those laws that were saved at Independence – are now to be dismissed.

“One of those laws is the death penalty, but there are many, many more. The same set of people are in the courts elsewhere, with no discussion in this country, arguing for bail for murderers.

“I want to ask the people of TT tonight – in this country, in this land of murder and mayhem where so many tens or possibly hundreds of witnesses are being killed, when you go and change the law now to make it a right that once you charged for murder you get bail to come out, how many witnesses you will get to come before the court after that?

Saying it is a priority for some, he questioned if the country needs more murderers on the streets.

“As if we don’t have enough. But the ones you identify and you charge will join you at Hott Shoppe to buy roti, now all ah we could be out on bail, and that is what they promising you.”

(source: newsday.co.tt)

OCTOBER 18, 2021:

TEXAS:

Attorneys in Rodney Reed case back in court Monday for closing arguments----Reed is hoping for a new trial and his lawyers argue that Stites' fiance, Jimmy Fennell, is the real killer. The Stites family believes Reed killed her.

After months of waiting, attorneys for the State and Rodney Reed will be back in the court room on Monday.

Reed has spent more than 20 years on death row after being convicted in 1998 for the murder of Stacey Stites. Reed was granted an evidentiary hearing, which took place for nine days in late July. A judge in Bastrop County will hear closing arguments from both sides on Monday.

Reed is hoping for a new trial and his lawyers argue that Stites' fiance, Jimmy Fennell, is the real killer. The Stites family believes Reed killed her.

After both sides make their final arguments, a judge will make a recommendation at a later date. The case will then go to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Reed's conviction could stand; he could be granted a new trial; or he could be released from prison.

(source: KVUE TV news)

OKLAHOMA:

Executing an innocent man is not justice; spare the life of Julius Jones

I am a Christian, a lifelong Oklahoman, a former law clerk for the Honorable Gary Lumpkin on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and former appointee to the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Professional Responsibility Tribunal, where I served for 6 years. I believe in our legal system, but I also know it is capable of mistakes. One of those mistakes was the conviction and death sentence of Julius Jones, whom I firmly believe is innocent of the crime for which he awaits execution.

I first heard about Jones’ case in May 2020 and was initially skeptical about his claim to innocence. I believe our justice system gets it right most of the time, and I support the death penalty in appropriate cases. I also feel strongly, however, that before someone is executed, there should be a high degree of certainty about the person’s guilt. Because I had questions about Jones' case and wanted to know more for myself, I investigated. I read the trial transcripts, the appellate and post-conviction records, all the briefs and opinions that had been filed, and I reviewed the new evidence that has come to light since Jones' trial. I was troubled to discover that the jury didn’t have three key pieces of evidence that would have demonstrated Jones' innocence.

First, the only eyewitness to Paul Howell’s tragic murder described the shooter as having half-an-inch of hair sticking out from underneath a stocking cap. The jury was never shown a photograph of Jones, taken just days before the shooting, showing his hair (which was shaved at the time) was too short to fit that description. The description of the hair sticking out fit Jones' co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, who testified against Jones to avoid the death penalty.

2nd, Jones' mother, father, sister and older brother were all adamant Jones was at home when Mr. Howell was killed. But they never testified because Jones' lawyers — who had never handled a death penalty case before — decided not to call a single witness in his defense at the first stage of the trial.

Third, the jury never knew that the prosecution promised Christopher Jordan that he would get out of prison in just 15 years, in exchange for blaming Jones for the crime that Jordan admitted to — to multiple, disinterested witnesses who have since come forward to attest to that fact, under oath.

The United States Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals have both said that executive clemency is designed to show mercy in cases, like Jones', where there are important issues and evidence that courts have not been able to consider because of the strict standards of review and procedural rules they must apply. In Jones' case, that principle is especially important in light of significant evidence that he is innocent and was wrongly convicted due to breakdowns in our system of justice.

I believe in law and order, that crime victims deserve justice, and that our justice system works most of the time. But I also believe — after considering all the evidence — that our justice system failed in Julius Jones' case and is at risk of sending an innocent man to his death. Executing a man for a crime he didn’t commit is not justice. Our laws exist to protect the rights of the innocent. How can we say we are for law and order if we don’t protect the life of Julius Jones?

(source: Guest Columnist; Kelli Masters is an attorney and sports agent who resides in Oklahoma. She was a member of Julius Jones’ legal delegation at his Sept. 13 commutation hearing----oklahoman.com

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

Supporters Of Death Row Inmate Julius Jones Hold Rally On His Behalf

Supporters of death row inmate Julius Jones marched then rallied Saturday in front of the Oklahoma County Courthouse.

They're calling on the pardon and parole board to grant Jones clemency later this month.

(source: news9.com)

USA:

Capital punishment not only issue in Supreme Court case

The Boston Marathon bomber’s case poses a question without an answer.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week held what can only be described as odd oral arguments in the case of the surviving Boston Marathon bomber.

“Odd” is an odd word to use to describe the sterling legal arguments. But new Justice Amy Coney Barrett suggested it when she asked government lawyer Eric Feagin what the point was of the proceeding.

“I’m wondering what the government’s endgame is here,” she said, admitting difficulty “following the (government’s) point.”

Her confusion relates to the government’s schizophrenic approach to the punishment of Dzhokar Tsarnaev.

The government is asking the high court to reinstate a jury-ordered death penalty that was overturned by a federal appeals court. But at the same time President Joe Biden’s Justice Department seeks death in the courts for Tsarnaev, Attorney General Merrick Garland has suspended executions of federal inmates facing the death penalty.

“So the government has declared a moratorium on executions, but you’re here defending his death sentence. ... And if you win, presumably that means that he is relegated to living under threat of a death penalty that the government doesn’t plan to carry out,” Barrett stated.

Feagin essentially told Barrett that the issue before the court is the validity of the appellate court decision, and how the executive branch proceeds in the future regarding death cases is a separate, non-justiciable issue. He would be correct in his analysis, but the government lawyer’s bobbing and weaving demonstrates the conflicted nationwide debate over the propriety of capital punishment.

Some states have it, and other states, including Illinois, do not. Congress passed a federal death-penalty law that applies in the worst kinds of cases — the Boston Marathon bombing is one; the 2017 kidnapping and murder of a University of Illinois student from China is another.

But even if jurors are persuaded that death is appropriate — they were in the bombing case but not the kidnapping/murder case — the Biden administration rejects executions on moral grounds. At the same time, some judges — in both the state and federal courts — refuse to uphold death-penalty sentences because of personal opposition they disguise with unpersuasive legalities. The appeals court ruling in Tsarnaev’s case is just one example.

That’s not the only hitch in the death-penalty debate. Opponents argue that it is cruel, that government ought not be in the business of executing criminals no matter what they do because it cheapens human life. Instead, they suggest life in prison as an alternative. But which is more harsh?

Tsarnaev was 19 when he and his brother planted the bombs that destroyed and devastated so many lives. Now he’s 27 and held at the federal super-maximum security prison in Florence, Colo. The best he can look forward to is one day after another in the same cold surroundings until his life expires.

Tsarnaev may have been filled with jihadist zeal when he set out on his murderous mission. But how does he feel now about the importance of what he did, and how, if he is spared execution, will he feel 20 years from now when he reflects on what his life might have been?

Sirhan Sirhan, who was 24 when he assassinated presidential candidate Robert Kennedy in 1968, has been miserable behind bars. Even at 77 — 53 years later — he’s desperately seeking freedom for the balance of his life.

Tsarnaev deserves the harshest possible punishment for his crucial role in his horrible crime.

But what is that? The Supreme Court will address the legal question, and the Biden administration will continue to exercise its administrative prerogatives.

Whatever happens, the only way Tsarnaev should or will ever leave federal custody is in a box.

(source: Editorial, News-Gazette)

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

Death penalty can express society’s outrage – but biases often taint the verdict

In its hearing on Oct. 13, 2021, the Supreme Court appeared to favor reinstating the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was found guilty of planting homemade bombs, with the help of his brother, Tamerlan, along the crowded Boston Marathon route on April 15, 2013. The bombs killed three people and injured 260.

As the brothers evaded police, they killed a police officer and injured many others. In attempting to escape, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev accidentally killed his brother by running him over with a vehicle.

Prosecutors brought the case to the Supreme Court after the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the grounds that the prospective jurors were not screened sufficiently about their exposure to media coverage of the bombing, and the jurors were not given evidence of Tamerlan’s past crimes.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers wanted jurors to consider the influence of his older brother as a mitigating factor to lessen his sentences, and the evidence of Tamerlan’s past violence was a key part of that argument.

I study criminal law and punishment as a political institution, including how it must fit within the values of a liberal democracy to be justified. Tsarnaev’s case is complicated because of the immense harm he caused to so many people.

My research examines how punishment affects members of society beyond the criminals and their victims. One of the key ways that punishment has a broader social effect is its capacity to express strong moral condemnation of actions that violate the basic rights of members of society.

But punishment also expresses moral condemnation of the criminal. This is where the risk comes in because a strong negative attitude toward one individual can reinforce prejudicial stereotypes about racial and ethnic groups.

Punishment and collective condemnation

Joel Feinberg, one of the most influential philosophers of law in the 20th century, explained that punishment has an “expressive function.” By this, Feinberg meant that punishment expresses the idea that the government condemns the criminal action. Criminal conviction is not enough to express moral condemnation on its own, because punishment is necessary to show that criminal laws are more than empty words.

The capacity of punishment to send a message makes it useful for reinforcing a society’s values. In liberal democracies like the United States, the government represents members of society. Thus, punishment is one way that society expresses its values. Not only does the fact of punishment communicate that the society condemns an action, but also the severity of the sentence communicates how much it condemns the criminal act.

Feminist political theorist Jean Hamptonexplained that the expressive capacity of punishment is valuable because it allows society to convey solidarity with the victims of crime. When people commit crimes, Hampton argued, they put their own goals and interests above those of the people they harm in the process. In cases of violent crime, this is especially true. Punishing Tsarnaev is a way of communicating that society values the lives of the victims.

If the idea that punishment communicates solidarity with victims seems abstract, consider a case where a crime was inadequately punished. Brock Turner, a Stanford student who was found guilty of sexual assault of an unconscious female student, was sentenced to just six months in county jail, though he would only serve half that. Many people were outraged at the short sentence, given the nature of his crime and the strong evidence against him.

Stanford law professor Michele Dauber led a successful campaign to recall the sentencing judge, and when she won, she said, “”We voted that sexual violence, including campus sexual violence, must be taken seriously by our elected officials and by the justice system.”

The sentence was interpreted as a lack of solidarity with the victim and with all victims of sexual assault. The recall was a message to other judges that citizens wanted harsher punishments for rapists because harsher sentences would convey that the lives of victims of rape matter.

The capacity of punishment to communicate a society’s values is useful, but it can also reinforce negative attitudes toward the person who committed the crime – not just toward the criminal act itself.

In the Tsarnaev case, victims and strangers alike have moral reasons not only to condemn his criminal actions but also to condemn him. It would be understandable if people resented him or held other negative attitudes toward him, given the nature of his crime. When he is punished, the state is reinforcing and justifying those attitudes as legitimate.

Risks of racial bias

But the fact that punishment is an expression of negative attitudes makes it risky. To begin with, not all negative attitudes toward others are justified.

Implicitly or explicitly, one may dislike members of a racial group or ethnic minority, or associate negative stereotypes based on gender or sexual orientation. These sources of negative attitudes pose two kinds of risks given the expressive function of punishment. The first risk is that implicit or explicit racial biases will be confused for justified negative attitudes when a criminal defendant is prosecuted and punished. The second is that punishments themselves, even when justified, could reinforce existing implicit and explicit biases.

To understand how these two risks work, take the over-representation of Black Americans in the criminal legal system. Recent data shows that, even though incarceration rates for Black men are the lowest they have been since 1989, they are still 5.8 times more likely to be incarcerated than white men.

Black defendants are not only more likely to be sentenced to death than their white counterparts, but also, once sentenced, they are more likely to actually be executed than white death row inmates.

The first risk plays a role in the over-punishment of Black Americans because in many cases, police, prosecutors, judges and juries confuse their unjustified negative feelings based on race for appropriate feelings of resentment based on a defendant having committed a crime. Thus, if they have negative attitudes toward a defendant because of race, a jury may find guilt where there is none, or over-punish.

Social scientists talk about this phenomenon when they explain that implicit biases or unconscious negative attitudes affect criminal justice outcomes, particularly for Black Americans. Implicit biases are at least one factor in why Black Americans are given harsher sentences than white criminals who commit similar crimes.

The second risk is more subtle. The message of punishment is that the criminal’s act is bad and so is the criminal. Seeing members of a marginalized racial or ethnic group punished could reinforce prejudicial negative attitudes.

Evidence of this second risk was recently demonstrated in a troubling study: The more white Americans learn that Black Americans are over-represented in the criminal justice system, the more they may seek increasingly punitive policies. Authors of the study linked this to pervasive implicit biases in which white Americans unconsciously associate Black faces with crime. Thus, punishing Black Americans strengthens an unjustifiable association between Blackness and criminality. This has a profound effect on the lives of all Black Americans, whether they ever commit a crime or not.

The risk of implicit biases

Tsarnaev is not Black. But he is Chechen, a majority-Muslim ethnic group from Eastern Europe.

In the United States, studies indicate that half to 2/3 of non-Muslim Americans hold anti-Muslim implicit biases. Legal scholar Khaled Beydounexplains that federal anti-terrorism projects since 9/11 have treated Muslims – and those assumed, based on their ethnicity, to be Muslim – as suspected terrorists based only on their perceived religion.

The growing implicit biases against Muslims and aggressive policing of Muslim communities already put American Muslims at risk of similar treatment in the criminal legal system as Black Americans.

These risks do not mean that the death penalty is never warranted or that it is not warranted in this case. But it does mean that policymakers and the public should take these risks into account when making laws and setting policies about punishing.

(source: The Conversation)

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SCOTUS Tackles the Impact of Three Strikes Law on Child Offenders

The U.S. Supreme Court has the opportunity to address the inequities in applying the “three strikes” criminal punishment law to minors. Two board members of Human Rights for Kids, Polsinelli’s Tony W. Torain II and Chairwoman Suzanne S. LaPierre, react to the court’s Oct. 4 oral arguments in Wooden v. United States and say the justices’ hypotheticals illustrate the complexity in crafting a workable test.

Too little attention has been paid to the most vulnerable casualties of mass incarceration in America—our children.

In the late 1980s states began passing laws making it easier to transfer children into the adult criminal legal system, which exposed them to the same harsh mandatory minimum sentences and mandatory sentencing enhancements as adults. This practice eventually caught the attention of our nation’s highest court when defense attorneys began challenging extreme punishments like the death penalty and life without parole sentences for youth.

Between 2005 and 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings that found the imposition of such sentences on children to be a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishments. These decisions have been rightly heralded as watershed moments for the advancement of children’s rights in the U.S.

Few people realize, however, that because every state in the nation and the federal government allow children to be tried as adults, every single criminal case the Supreme Court takes up necessarily implicates children’s rights.

Complexities of the ‘Different Occasions’ Standard

On Oct. 4, the court heard oral argument in Wooden v. United States, a case addressing the mandatory sentencing enhancement provisions of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), more colloquially known as a “three strikes law.”

At issue in Wooden is the test used to determine whether previously committed offenses satisfy the statute’s “different occasions” standard. Wooden argued that the Sixth Circuit’s holding that multiple convictions arising from a single criminal opportunity satisfy the standard, is overly expansive and violates the plain meaning of the statute.

In his case, prosecutors stacked multiple charges of burglary against him when he broke into a building that housed multiple storage units. Each unit he burglarized, prosecutors claim, counted as a separate crime under the statute. In other words, there is no attenuation in time needed between one crime and the next in order to be deemed a “career criminal” under the statute.

At oral argument, a few justices seemed sympathetic to Wooden’s argument, with Justice Neil Gorsuch suggesting at one point that the rule of lenity might be implicated as there was ambiguity as to what exactly Congress meant by crimes being committed on “occasions different from one another.” The hypotheticals proffered by the justices illustrated the complexity for the court in crafting a workable test that would result in consistent outcomes.

Wooden argued for a qualitative assessment that looked at all of the surrounding circumstances to determine if a “clean break” in the criminal episode had taken place whereby the intervening time between multiple criminal acts was but one consideration.

The government, on the other hand, argued that the “different occasions” element was satisfied so long as it showed an attenuation in time—however slight—between the elements of each offense.

The government’s position is particularly concerning for child defendants. A string of hypotheticals by Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts brought to mind the Houston-Sconiers case from the state of Washington that we mentioned in our amicus brief.

In that case, two teenage boys spent Halloween night robbing other children of their candy. While no one was hurt during the criminal episode, prosecutors charged the boys with, among other crimes, seven counts of robbery with nine firearm enhancements.

Despite the robberies occurring within hours of each other on the same evening where the defendants netted mostly Halloween candy, the government would treat each robbery as a separate occasion under the ACCA, triggering the mandatory minimums under the statute.

The title of the statute itself, addressing “Career Criminals,” should render non-sensical any interpretation of sequential actions occurring during a single criminal opportunity, as evidence of a truly habitual offender whose conduct the statute was designed to address.

The government’s position and the lower court’s erroneous interpretation of the ACCA’s “different occasions” standard not only contravenes legislative intent, but when applied to child offenders, further affronts the Constitution’s requirement of proportionality in sentencing under the Eighth Amendment.

ACCA Policy Labels Children as ‘Career Criminals’

The policy has another terrible consequence: labeling children convicted of offenses arising out of a single incident as “career criminals.” Permitting the imposition of harsh mandatory minimums on child offenders, which would follow from such a designation, is incompatible with the statute’s plain language, as well as everything we know about children who come into conflict with the law.

It is now well-settled that children’s underdeveloped brains often result in poor decision-making. This is exacerbated by trauma which negatively impacts brain development and is a primary reason behind why so many children become system involved. The Supreme Court has consistently acknowledged the circumstances leading to juvenile crime are transient, not permanent, and as such are inconsistent with labeling a child an “irredeemable, career criminal.”

The ACCA was enacted to protect the public from long-time violent criminals, not children, regardless of the severity of the crimes they have committed during one day or night of intemperate behavior. Equating an individual’s poor judgment on a single occasion with perpetual and irredeemable criminality is unjustified when applied to adults, and unconscionable when applied to children.

Since the U.S. allows children to be tried as adults, courts would do well to remember the impact of their decisions on child offenders, and Congress would do well to remove children from the reach of such harsh mandatory minimums altogether.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

Author Information

Tony W. Torain II is a shareholder in the Washington, D.C., office of Polsinelli P.C. He also serves on the board of directors of Human Rights for Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights for children.

Suzanne S. La Pierre is an attorney involved in anti-human trafficking work and the protection of fundamental human rights, including the self-determination of peoples. She is the chair of Human Rights for Kids.

The authors submitted an amicus brief for Human Rights for Kids in the Wooden v. United States case.

(source: bloomberglaw.com)

GLOBAL:

Below is a kind reminder regarding the online event this week for the launch of the guide on How to Work with Parliamentarians for the Abolition of the Death Penalty.

Sign up here for the event in English on 20 Wednesday at 15h Paris time : https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0qc-6spjorEtWi_h5__5HDPKNxdVaVptnG

Sign up here for the event in French on 21 Wednesday at 15h Paris time: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYrfuqgqzsoG9NLExCoX7qdQpQn1DhLZ4bM

(source: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty)

ASIA/INDONESIA:

Abolition of the death penalty: a civil society campaign

The campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, launched by civil society and embraced by Christian Churches and organizations, is intensifying in Indonesia.

Several Indonesian civil society organizations have called on the government to remove the death penalty from the country's legal system, noting that there is evidence that "this form of legal murder is capable of deterring people from committing crimes". Furthermore, according to groups committed to protecting human rights, there is a high risk of an unjust sentence that could deprive even an innocent person of life. However, despite the pandemic, the Indonesian judiciary continues to impose the death penalty (mainly for cases related to drug trafficking) with evidence that is evaluated in "teleconference": this is a system that jeopardizes the conduct of the process in a fair and equitable manner, the organizations detect. According to the data collected by the supervisory body on "Imparsial" rights on human beings, 129 inmates were sentenced to death between March 2020 and September 2021. There are currently over 350 prisoners held on death row in Indonesia, of which convicted drug traffickers account for about 60%.

The number of death sentences issued by Indonesian courts in 2020 increased by 46% from the previous year, says Amnesty International Indonesia. In fact, 117 death sentences were issued in 2020, compared to 80 in 2019, as noted in the latest report on the death penalty published on April 21. According to the NGO, 101 of the 117 death sentences were imposed in drug cases, while the other 16 were convicted of murder. The theme involves the Christian Churches in Indonesia: Father Aegidius Eko Aldianto, executive secretary of the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, said that "the Catholic Church has expressed regret for the increase in the number of sentences". The Indonesian Catholic Church "has always been attentive to the respect for human dignity", Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono SJ, director of "Sahabat Insan", an Indonesian Jesuit organization that deals with migrant workers and victims of human trafficking, confirms to Fides. "I have just finished participating in a webinar on this topic, in which the official teaching of the Church on the subject of capital punishment, which is based on the absolute sacredness and inviolability of human life, was well remembered. For us, in particular, the main concern concerns the case of migrant workers sentenced to death". The abolitionist campaign has been underway for months. As early as last June, a research on public opinion at the University of Oxford reported that although the majority of Indonesian people are in favor of capital punishment, support decreases as more is learned about exactly what "'state murder' means, particularly when specific circumstances are shown such as trials conducted without guarantees.

Research from the University of Oxford - conducted in 2019-20 in collaboration with "Universitas Indonesia" and the law firm "LBH Masyarakat" which provides pro bono legal services - shows that the Indonesian public is generally unaware of the death penalty. Out of over 1,500 respondents, 69% initially said they were in favor of maintaining the death penalty, although only 35% felt "strongly" in favor of the penalty; only 2% considered themselves "very well informed" and only 4% said they were "very concerned" about the matter.

As explained by Professor Carolyn Hoyle of "The Death Penalty Research Unit" of the University of Oxford, the role of religious leaders is fundamental: almost 40% of the supporters of the death penalty in fact agree to change their minds if the relevant religious leaders showed support for its abolition. The latest executions in Indonesia were carried out in July 2016, when four convicted drug traffickers, including foreign nationals, were shot. The Indonesian Criminal Code provides for the death penalty for a range of crimes such as murder, terrorism, illegal arms and drug trafficking, corruption, aggravated robbery, treason, espionage and a range of military offenses.

(source: Agenzia Fides)

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206 Indonesians Abroad Face Death Penalties, Says Foreign Affairs Ministry

The Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Director of Protection of Indonesian Citizens and Legal Entities, Judha Nugraha, in a discussion on Monday revealed that 206 Indonesian citizens incarcerated abroad are on death row in 2021.

“There are 206 cases in total as of October, with 79 of them are inkracht (a final and binding court ruling),” said Nugraha in the discussion about death sentences, gender-based violence, and torture against women on October 18, Antaranews reported.

Among the hundreds of Indonesians facing death penalties, he said most were residing in Malaysia with 188 sentenced to death. Other countries handing out death sentences are Saudi Arabia (5), United Arab Emirate (4), Laos (3), China (2), and one each in Vietnam, Myanmar, and Singapore.

“Most of their cases involve narcotics,” he added. Besides narcotics, there were also other cases related to murder. Referring to their gender, 39 of them are women.

He explained that the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry in 2021 continued to assist the Indonesians and do its best to prevent them from being handed the death sentence with 2 successful cases involving a West Java resident and a West Nusa Tenggara resident who were freed from death row for murder cases.

In general, from 2011 to 2021, the Ministry managed to help 516 Indonesians out of death penalties.

(source: en.tempe.co)

AFGHANISTAN:

Taliban ask officials not to carry out public executions unless directed by 'top court': Report

The Taliban has directed local officials to refrain from carrying out punishments in public unless Afghanistan's "top court" issues the order for public execution.

The Council of Ministers has decided that no punishment will be carried out publicly when there is no need to publicise the convict and till the court issues an order, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet.

"Public executions and hanging of bodies should be avoided unless the supreme court issues an order for such an action," Mujahid said was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.

"If the offender is punished, the punishment must be explained so that the people know about the crime," the Taliban spokesperson said.

Last month, the United States had strongly condemned the Taliban's plans to reinstate amputations and executions as a type of punishment in Afghanistan. During a presser, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US stands with the Afghan people, especially with members of minority groups, and demand that the Taliban immediately cease any such atrocious abuses.

"We condemn in the strongest terms reports of reinstating amputations and executions of Afghans. The acts, the Taliban are talking about here, would constitute clear gross abuses of human rights, and we stand firm with the international community to hold perpetrators of any such abuses accountable," Price had said.

In September, multiple media reports had emerged that the Taliban's official in charge of prisons and former justice minister of Afghanistan, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, said punishments such as executions and amputations will resume in the country.

After announcing the government in Afghanistan, the Taliban regime has failed to get recognition. Aside from China, Pakistan and a handful of other countries, the rest of the world is taking a wait and watch policy while keeping an eye on the conduct of the outfit.

(source: aninews.in)

INDIA:

Odisha: HC commutes death sentence to life term for man guilty of rape, murder

The Orissa high court has commuted the death sentence awarded by a special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) court to life imprisonment for a man convicted of the rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl.

The HC has also ruled that the man will not be entitled to any pre-mature relief of release or any parole for the next 20 years.

“We are of the opinion that the death sentence has a unique aspect. It is irrevocable. In the cases based on circumstantial evidence, the death sentence should be awarded only in case the prosecution has established its case by the evidence of such sterling quality that the court is absolutely clear about his guilt. It should be for a higher standard than the normal beyond reasonable doubt principle, as applied to criminal cases,” the two-judge bench of Justice S K Mishra and Justice Savitri Ratho said.

“Hence, we are of the opinion that this is not a fit case to award the death sentence,” the bench further observed.

It passed the order recently on a death reference seeking confirmation of the death sentence and another jail criminal appeal from the convict, Sunil Nayak, challenging the capital punishment.

The additional sessions judge-cum-special judge, Keonjhar, had sentenced Sunil to death on December 19, 2019. The incident had occurred under the Champua police station limits on January 13, 2017.

(source: The Times of India)

JORDAN:

Man sentenced to death for killing sister in name of ‘family honour’

The Court of Cassation upheld a June Criminal Court ruling, sentencing a man to death after convicting him of murdering his married sister in the Jordan Valley in October 2019.

The court declared the defendant guilty of the premeditated murder of his married sister while at her home on October 30 and handed him the death penalty.

Court documents said the defendant knew that “his sister was seeing other men while being married and that she had a bad reputation”.

The defendant decided to murder his sister “to cleanse his family’s honour”, according to court papers.

On one occasion 2 years before the incident, the defendant saw his sister “riding with a man in a bus and attempted to kill her but failed", court papers said.

On the day of the incident, the court maintained that the defendant headed to the victim’s home and cut off the electricity so that she would leave the house to check out the matter, but she did not.

The defendant then waited for two hours next to her window to spy on her, and then knocked on the door, court papers said.

The minute he saw his sister, the court added, the defendant fired four rounds striking her in the back, the court transcripts added.

The defendant, through his lawyer, contested the capital punishment verdict, arguing that his client should benefit from a reduction in penalty because he killed his sister “in a moment of rage to cleanse his family’s honour”.

Meanwhile, the Criminal Court’s attorney general had asked the higher court to uphold the death sentence ruling, stating that the court abided by the proper legal procedures when sentencing the defendant.

The Cassation Court ruled that the Criminal Court’s judgement fell within the law; that the proceedings were proper and the sentence given was satisfactory.

"The defendant plotted his murder carefully and had prior knowledge about his sister’s bad behaviour and a fit of fury clause is not applicable in this case," the higher court ruled.

The Cassation Court judges were Mohammad Ibrahim, Yassin Abdullat, Nayef Samarat, Hammad Ghzawi and Qassem Dughmi.

(source: The Jordan Times)

IRAN:

Juvenile Offender Arman Abdolali Transferred for Execution Again

Juvenile offender Arman Abdoali has been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution for the 2nd time in the last week. His execution is due to be carried out in the coming days.

On October 11, Arman was transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his scheduled execution on October 13 and his parents were summoned for their last visit on October 12. Iran Human Rights called on the international community to take action to save Arman Abdolali’s life. United Nations Human Right Experts including the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran urgently appealed to Iran to halt his execution on October 12 and demanded that Iran stop sentencing children to death.

Arman’s execution was subsequently rescheduled for October 16, which was postponed without any reason given and he was returned to the general ward. However, Arman was again transferred to solitary confinement at 10 am this morning and told that his execution would be carried out in the coming days.

Iran Human Rights repeats its call on the international community to save Arman’s life. “At this point, only pressure from the international community can save Arman’s life. We call on states who have diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic to take action to save Arman’s life before it’s too late,” said Iran Human Rights Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.

Arman Abdolali’s case:

Arman Abdolali was born on 9 March 1996 and was 17 years old at the time of the alleged murder in 2013. He was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder without a body ever being found.

Informed sources told Iran Human Rights: “CCTV footage showed Ghazaleh (his alleged victim) leaving the building after meeting Arman. But the police never investigated the evidence.”

Arman’s lawyer had previously pointed to the fact that the pull-up bar Arman had confessed to using as the murder weapon had also never been examined by the police.

Upon arrest, Arman was held in solitary confinement for 74 days where he confessed to the murder. He was subsequently tried and sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) based on the confession, without taking into consideration that he was a juvenile offender.

Days prior to his execution, Arman’s lawyer found out that Ghazaleh had been issued with a leave of absence by her university and her insurance policy had been renewed and used them as evidence to request a retrial.

2 of the judges who had previously sentenced Arman to qisas, opined that further investigations would be required in light of the fact that the letter from her university was dated after the murder was alleged to have taken place. Meanwhile, Ghazaleh’s family gave Arman an extension and opportunity to reveal the location of the body.

His retrial was heard before Branch 5 of the Criminal Court when he was studying for his master’s degree at Shahid Modarres University. Once again, he denied the murder and stated that he did not know where her body was and that she might be alive.

His case was later referred to the Tehran Criminal Court, which found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to qisas. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in February this year.

Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still carries out the death penalty for juvenile offenders. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Islamic Republic is a signatory to, prohibit the issuance and implementation of the death penalty for crimes committed by an individual below 18 years of age.

Yet, according to data collected by IHR and international human rights organisations, the Islamic Republic is responsible for more than 70% of all executions of juvenile offenders in the last 30 years. IHR’s statistics also show that at least 64 juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran over the past 10 years, with at least four executed in 2020.

(source: iranhr.net)

GAZA:

Hamas sentences 2 to death, 2 to hard labor for collaborating with Israel----Men from southern Gaza Strip to be hanged; Palestinian Authority court in Bethlehem court gives man 15 years for land sale to Israelis

Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip sentenced two men to death on allegations that they had collaborated with Israel, according to Sunday reports.

A Hamas court ordered that the 2 men, from Khan Younis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, be hanged.

Reports did not say when the sentence will be carried out.

2 other men were sentenced to hard labor, also for collaborating with Israel.

The sentences came as a Palestinian Authority court in the West Bank city of Bethlehem sentenced a man to 15 years in prison for attempting to sell land to Jewish Israelis.

Under Palestinian Authority law, selling land to Jews can be a capital offense.

Hamas authorities have held public executions in the past of those it accuses of collaborating with Israel.

The terror group, which says it seeks to destroy Israel, has controlled Gaza since 2007, when it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from the territory.

The PA, based in the West Bank, has long criticized rivals Hamas for carrying out executions without the approval of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to Palestinian law, the PA president must approve the enforcement of any death sentence. Since 2006, Abbas has not given his official blessing for the implementation of a single execution.

According to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, Hamas has sentenced 130 people to death since 2007 and has executed 25 people. With the two fresh sentences, Hamas has sentenced seven people to death this year, figures show.

The PA has not executed anyone since 2005, when 5 people were put to death.

Executions by Palestinians, whether by the PA or Hamas, have in the past met with international condemnation.

(source: The Times of Israel)

MALAYSIA:

Heartbreaking Video Of Single Mother Of 9 Sentenced To Death In Sabah Triggers Debate ---- International human rights organizations say that Malaysia’s criminal justice system and the mandatory death penalty is unjust and flawed.

Netizens are discussing the merits of Malaysia’s capital punishment system after a single mother of nine children was given the mandatory death penalty by the Tawau High Court in Sabah on Friday (15 October) for drug distribution charges.

55-year-old fish seller, Hairun Jalmani, was sentenced to the gallows by Judge Alwi Abdul Wahab when the prosecution established ‘prima facies’ or probable evidence against the accused, while the defence was unable to raise reasonable doubt in the case.

Hairun was charged with possessing exactly 113.9 grams of syabu or methamphetamine at a residence in Kampung Pangkalan Wakuba, Tawau in January 2018.

Heartbreakingly, video footage of the mother falling into emotional disarray following her sentencing was released to the public.

The 45-second clip saw the mother in handcuffs and breaking down in tears as she’s escorted away from the courthouse.

“Ibu tunggal 9 anak dijatuhi hukuman mati mandatori miliki, edar dadah.”

TAWAU, 15 OKTOBER 2021-Seorang ibu tunggal kpd sembilan orang anak dij4tuhi hukuman m4ti mandatori di Mahkamah Tinggi Tawau pada Jumaat selepas didapati bersalah memiliki dan mengedar dadah tiga tahun lalu. pic.twitter.com/ViBKQIlqEp” — AADK Besut (@AADKDaerahBesut) October 16, 2021

The video triggered many to question Malaysia’s legal system following another unfortunate victim of Malaysia’s drug epidemic.

A look through the comments section showed that some people did agree that the death penalty was a just and unprejudiced punishment to be given towards drug offenders.

They say that such cases serve as a valuable lesson for the public to stay away from drugs and crime, while others moved to protest against such inhumane punishment, saying that it was unfair and unnecessary in our modern world.

“She got what was coming for her. https://t.co/OjXtyF2zG5” — Dear Leader ???? (@santeira) October 17, 2021

Many likewise argued for the abolishment of the death penalty, seeing how the law may be flawed at persecuting marginalised and underprivileged groups.

“Malaysia needs to abolish the death penalty – especially for crimes of desperation."

There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than a prison term. In fact, crime figures from countries which have banned the death penalty have not risen. https://t.co/x4GCjRfBSG” — ?? Dhia Rezki ??#LAWAN (@DhiaRezki) October 17, 2021

“Why the hell is the death penalty still a thing? Why is it okay for the state to confiscate your right to life? A majority of drugs are bad, definitely. But killing the dealer? A bit much, yea https://t.co/3W8otB1mCs” — Chris Deng (@chrisdeng_) October 17, 2021

“How many people has “don’t do drugs” murdered? Without understanding how the cycle of poverty creates demand, or that drug abuse is a health issue. Maligned and outdated drug laws are systematically failing the poor and sick. https://t.co/YVRH984Lzb” — Nadira Ilana (@feistgeist) October 18, 2021

People also conveyed their opinions of how topsy turvy the country’s legal system was when people were being sentenced to death for what they perceive as petty crimes as corrupted individuals still remained at large for major malfeasance.

“what happens to her 9 kids then? what would they do to make ends meet one day? in no way am i justifying drugs & dealing but go after the kingpins, the ones who get to choose the life they live. this mother clearly was desperate and had no other choice. https://t.co/iTJgBwPFDp” — Hannah (@muuurmaid) October 17, 2021

“Imagine defending the death penalty over a single mother of 9 for a lone drug offense, while an exposé account is blowing up on Twitterjaya for unmasking every single police chief, Dato, and politician who’s avoided that same penalty operating entire drug syndicates.” — Iqbal (@Iqtodabal) October 17, 2021

Malaysia’s criminal justice system is internationally famous, but not in a good way.

A 2018 report by the international Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization said that our justice system was considerably flawed and has a long record of unjust investigations, arrests and detentions.

HWR had listed down a few of our country’s laws which it said were unfair and against human rights. Among them were the Prevention of Crime Act 1959, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act or SOSMA, and of course, the country’s mandatory death penalty.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International in its report says that Malaysia has a very sketchy record when it comes to handling our accused criminals.

“From allegations of torture and other ill-treatment to an opaque pardons process, it’s clear the death penalty is a stain on Malaysia’s criminal justice system” — Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu.

In Malaysia, the death penalty is handed out for 33 different offences including murder and drug trafficking charges.

As of February 2019, 1,281 people in Malaysia were reported to be on death row, with 44% of them being foreign nationals.

Read More: The Death Penalty: Justice Or Injustice?

Funny enough, Malaysia recently announced its participation in the United Nation’s (UN) Human Rights Council for 2022-2024 in order to “advance the global human rights agenda” despite our outstandingly embarrassing track record.

(source: therakyatpost.com)

PHILIPPINES:

Gibo not in favor of peace talks with rebels, death penalty for drug-related crimes

Senatorial aspirant Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro Jr. is not in favor of conducting another round of peace talks with communist rebels and reimposing death penalty for drug-related crimes.

"Actually no. That's already been done," Teodoro told CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday when asked about his stance on peace talks during the "yes or no" segment.

Teodoro served as Defense secretary from 2007 to 2009 under the Arroyo administration. In 2010, he ran for president but lost to Benigno Aquino III.

The aspiring lawmaker is also not in favor of the reimposition of death penalty for drug-related crimes, citing lapses in the country's judicial system.

"No, not because I oppose it but because the judicial system might lack resources to guarantee a fair trial," he explained.

But Teodoro said "yes" to the lifting of limits to foreign ownerships; easier access to statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth; and having a sitting president run for vice president in the upcoming election because the "people will decide on it anyway."

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier announced that he would retire from politics once his term ends. He was initially endorsed by the PDP-Laban faction headed by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi to gun for the vice presidency, but his former aide and incumbent Sen. Bong Go replaced him.

WPS dispute and pandemic response

On the other hand, Teodoro believes that the country should be "more aggressive" when it comes to protecting its maritime resources in the West Philippine Sea, but he shares Duterte's sentiment on the function of the United Nations.

“[It is] one of the most undemocratic organizations because of the veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council," Teodoro said.

He also shared his thoughts on the Senate probe into the government's procurement of medical items, a move which he said should continue to hold those accountable, but must not stall the country's vaccination drive.

"Where there is smoke, there is fire. It should be pursued by professional investigators in an impartial way. Whoever has done something wrong should suffer for it basically, but this should not stall the need to acquire vaccines as quickly as possible because vaccinations are necessary and crucial in order for our economy to open," he said.

He also pushed for more investments in digital and physical infrastructures that would improve the government's pandemic response and storage facilities for vaccines, particularly in less developed localities with lesser technological capabilities.

After a decade-long hiatus in the political arena, Teodoro sought to make a comeback. He filed his candidacy for senator under the People's Reform Party two weeks ago, with a goal of "introducing more efficiencies into the government" using his background as a former public official and a leader in the private sector.

(source: CNN Philippines)

TANZANIA:

see: https://www.ippmedia.com/en/news/activists-decry-lack-data-prisoners-death-row

NIGERIA:

Pushing for abolition of death penalty----Some senior lawyers have called for a total abolition of death penalty in Nigeria’s legal system.

Some senior lawyers have called for a total abolition of death penalty in Nigeria’s legal system.

The calls came on the heels of the commemoration of the 19th World Day Against Death Penalty on October 10, 2021. The day unifies the global movement on the abolition of death penalty, with civil societies, political leaders and public opinion mobilised to support the universal abolition of capital punishment.

The lawyers’ call for abolition of capital punishment is also a sharp contrast to the recent plea by Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, urging state governors to sign death warrants of convicts on death row as a way of decongesting prisons.

Reports showed that about 3,008 condemned prisoners, comprising of 2,952 males and 56 females are on death row across the country while about 650 Nigerians are on death row or facing capital charges in China, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, most of them for drug offences.

Death penalty

Death penalty is described in Black’s Law Dictionary as ‘capital punishment’. It further defines capital punishment as a criminal penalty that involves killing the perpetrator; the sentence of death for a serious crime.

The death penalty provides the legal backing to take the life of a person despite his right to life. It is an exception to the right to life as provided for in Section 33(1) of the Constitution which clearly recognizes death penalty. Notably, death penalty is usually attached to serious crimes.

Nigeria is one of the countries in the world which still retains and administers death penalty in its criminal justice system. In the popular case of Onuoha Kalu v State, the Supreme Court held that death penalty is constitutional in Nigeria.

Nigeria is one of the countries that upholds the use of death sentence as a capital punishment in its penal code, with judges in the High and Sharia Courts sentencing convicted persons to death.

An instance was the recent reported case of judgement passed by an upper Sharia Court in the Hausawa Filin Hockey Area of Kano State sentencing a musician, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, 22, to death by hanging for blaspheming Prophet Muhammad.

Right to Life

The right to life is recognized as one of the Fundamental Human Rights in Chapter IV of the Nigerian Constitution. It is enshrined in Section 33 of the Constitution.

Although, the right to life is of great importance, it is however not absolute in Nigeria as the law has placed limitations on this right.

The law in Nigeria seeks to balance the interests of all and so, although it respects the right to life, it also places certain limitations on this right to protect public interest and ensure peace and order in the society. It goes to show that no individual can be deprived of his right to life, except through the legally recognized exceptions, one of which is death penalty.

As society progressed, arguments for and against the sustenance or retention of death penalty began and the imposition of the death penalty became a controversial issue. This has led to the abolition of the death penalty by some developed countries. Nevertheless, death penalty is legal in Nigeria as it is expected to perform a retributive and deterrent function.

In Nigeria, the Constitution devoted a whole Chapter to Fundamental Human Rights, and in that chapter, the right to life ranks first. Section 33(1) of the Constitution specifically provides for the right to life thus: ‘Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria’.

The right to life imposes on individuals and the State, the obligation not to deprive another intentionally of his right to life except within the permissible circumstances by law.

The right to life as provided for and enshrined in Section 33(1) of the Constitution also covers an already convicted person who although sentenced to death, has a pending appeal or review as the case may be. The State must allow the law to run its full course, and must not resort to hasty execution of the convict whose appeal is still pending before the Court of Appeal.

Lawyers react

In the meantime, Some senior lawyers have expressed deep concerns over the continuous use of death penalty in the nation’s legal system saying it has not really deterred criminal minds.

Speaking on the issue, the National Coordinator, Legal Defence & Assistance Project (LEDAP), Chino Obiagwu (SAN), said the dangers of continued use of death penalty are so grim to be ignored or avoided for political or religious reasons. He said: “It wrongly teaches that revenge is good justice, when indeed, it promotes sinister circle of violence and bloodshed.

There is always a high likelihood that innocent persons may be sentenced and executed, as indeed many who had been executed in the past had pleaded innocence till they were done with the hangman or the firing squad.

“Death sentence does not deter criminality. Severity or harshness of the punishment is not a solution to crime. What deters potential criminals is not the extreme sentence for the offence, but the possibility of being caught and prosecuted.

This is demonstrated in many states in the South-East and South-South regions that introduced death sentence as punishment for the offence of kidnapping. Despite this severe punishment, the offence was still on the rise, with only a handful of the incidents where the culprits are arrested and prosecuted. When the government kills, it motivates citizens to belittle life and to wrongly pursue revenge as justice.”

In their reaction, a team of lawyers under the aegis of Brotherhood International Lawyers Fellowship with headquarters in Calabar noted that Sections 175 and 212 of the Constitution confers the power called Prerogative of Mercy on the president and state governors to pardon a condemned person or reduce or commute the death sentence to terms of imprisonment.

“The President of Nigeria and State Governors should help exercise this power of Prerogative of Mercy to give hope to prisoners who are running their terms. There are instances where prisoners are wrongly condemned or imprisoned.

These are those we must look again at their plight. Prerogative of Mercy can help them regain their freedom and self esteem”, the group said. On his part, Mr.Tobi Oyesina, noted that there is a changing perception of crime and punishment and as such, serious questions are being raised about the propriety of death penalty.

He said: “Many countries have indeed come to realize that death penalty is inhuman, vengeful, nondeterrent and by its terminal nature, non-reforming. “Death penalty is principally more likely to lead to permanent miscarriage of justice in the circumstances in which it is practiced in Nigeria and all over the world. The development and civilization of a society is reflected in the penal policy of that society.

Law is an instrument of social engineering and is expected to reflect the need of a changing society “Sequel to the foregoing, there is, therefore, no gainsaying the fact that capital punishment has been globally discredited, due to so many problems that are associated with it.

“Several militating factors, like the infraction of the right to life, and freedom from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, irreversibility of death and judicial error have been highlighted as the albatross of capital punishment.

Hence, the concerted call for its universal abolition. “The criminal justice system as it is now perpetrates agony and injustice on all stakeholders and specifically the death row convicts who are being kept in devastating conditions in the prisons.

The essence of criminal justice would be attained without the government occasioning injustice to its citizens by keeping them behind bars indefinitely.

Bearing in mind that the major methods of execution are not devoid of pain irrespective of the innovation or sophistication, moving forward the discussions should be centred on the abolition of death penalty.

“The imposition of life imprisonment in lieu of death penalty should be given consideration.

The focus should be more of restructuring the Nigeria Criminal Law Policy towards dealing with criminogenic factors that predispose the individual to capital offences rather than concentrating on stringent and painful measures that cost the offender his or her life. The key to deterrence is not mere severe punishment but increasing likelihood that perpetrators of capital offences will be apprehended, investigated and convicted”.

A law lecturer, Dr. Dennis Agbuche, in his paper titled ‘Capital Punishment and the Divine Prerogative of Mercy’, said no person has the right to take the life of another. He quoted Section 33(1) of the Constitution, to support his assertion.

He insisted that capital punishment is outdated, saying Nigeria should emulate modern societies to reform its laws. Another Abuja-based lawyer, Dairo Awe, submitted that; “Death penalty has long outlived its use and functionality if there was ever any use at all.

Statistics available show that death penalty has not served any useful purpose in the mitigation or eradication of violent crimes to which the penalty is attached. “If anything, violent crimes have actually increased.

The retention of death penalty itself is one of the leading causes of mob action, jungle justice, ‘accidental discharge’ and other manners of extra-judicial killings by police and members of the public”.

Another lawyer, Folakemi Kuti, noted that death penalty is no longer fashionable and as such, it must be done away with. Kuti said: “The injustice in our criminal justice system is enough reason why no one should be sentenced to death.

If politicians and the elites who have appropriated the resources of the nation cannot be sentenced to death under the law, that is if ever tried, this sentence for the poor is uncalled for.

“In any event, death penalty has never solved the problem of crime in society.

We need to reform our laws to allow parole system so that inmates who have been ‘corrected’ and reformed overtime can be released subject to conditions”.

(source: newtelegraph.com)

UNITED KINGDOM:

The shocking story of the first Bedfordshire 'witches' sentenced to death----The mother and daughter were hanged for being witches

From the 15th to the 18th century, witch trials were an acceptable act in the UK.

If a town or village suspected a woman (or sometimes a man) of being a witch, they would be put through a 'trial' to see whether they were or not.

The trials could be very cruel and painful, which usually led to the 'suspect' dying.

They were put through torture such as thumbscrews and heated irons to try and get them to confess.

Other methods like 'swimming', sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation were also used.

The number of people killed in the UK for being witches during this time is believed to be between 500 and 1000.

At least 90 % of them were women.

Those accused of witchcraft were usually women with bad reputations or certain looks.

Warts, moles or even insect bites were considered 'devil marks' by Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins and were enough to 'prove' a woman was a witch.

Those found guilty were sadly sentenced to death, with burning, hanging and beheading being the most common methods of capital punishment.

Witches in Bedfordshire

2 Bedfordshire women were found guilty of being witches.

Mary Sutton and her mother were hog tenders from Milton, according to 'Witches Apprehended'.

They were accused of tormenting a young boy to death, paralysing a servant and bewitching horses and cattle.

The mother and daughter had a falling out with a local landowner, Master Enger.

After the argument, Enger found his horses and livestock acting in a very unusual manner.

The animals were cannibalising or drowning themselves, which Enger and local villagers believed was caused by witchcraft and the Suttons got the blame.

The division between the Suttons and Enger grew when one of Mary's sons was struck by a servant of Enger's for throwing stones.

Not long after, the same servant was injured whilst he was working.

He was stung by a beetle and reportedly fell into a trance and was paralysed.

Whilst in bed Mary reportedly visited the servant and suggested he could be cured by sharing her bed with her.

When he was able to speak again, the servant told his story to Enger who went to find Mary.

After she would not come willingly, Enger dragged Mary from her home and took her to the servant. Apparently, after drawing her blood he got better.

The troubles continued when Enger's son got involved.

He is said to have thrown stones at Mary's mother and called her a witch. Soon after he fell ill and died.

The death of his son led Enger to trial Mary and her mother for witchcraft by having them 'swum'.

Mary was tied with her hands to opposite feet and thrown into the Mill Dam.

The belief was that if a woman sunk she was innocent, but if she floated she was indeed a witch.

Mary floated. It was repeated but once again she would not sink.

Despite continuing to say she was innocent, Mary's son actually spoke against her and his grandmother, claiming he had heard them plotting revenge against Enger.

Mary also later broke down and confessed.

Mary and her mother were sentenced to death and hanged on April 7, 1612.

The Sutton women's trial is one that is noted as it is the first recorded example of water being used in witch trials in England.

Trails and executions of witches continued in England until the 1735 Witchcraft Act which made it a crime for a person to claim that any human being was guilty of practising witchcraft.

However, accusations did still continue.

(source: bedfordshirelive.co.uk)

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

Walter Rowland: The strange case of the Stockport pubgoer sentenced to death twice... after a murder at Deansgate----Was Walter Graham Rowland a double killer?

When the body of 40-year-old Olive Balchin was found abandoned in a bomb site in central Manchester it sent shockwaves through the city.

It was a brutal, bloody, and well publicised murder which soon led police to the door of a labourer from the Midlands called Walter Graham Rowland.

Rowland was convicted of killing the middle-aged woman following a brief trial in December 1946 and subsequently executed at Strangeways Prison in February 1947.

But shrouds of mystery and rumour still cloud this case even now, more than 70 years after its conclusion, and it is often brought up in arguments about the death penalty and wrongful convictions.

Was Rowland really the killer or was it actually David John Ware - a Liverpool jailbird who confessed to killing Olive in Deansgate before his comment was retracted?

This is the story of the 'blitz site' murder.

Death amongst the craters

It was a cold morning on Sunday, October 20, 1946, when the corpse of Olive Balchin was found amongst bombed-out buildings in Manchester's Deansgate area.

The MEN reported the discovery of her body in a story titled: 'Blitz site death: Man sought' explaining that 40-year-old Olive was found with serious head injuries, having been battered to death with a leather-worker's hammer which was also found at the scene.

As a unique and specific tool, the hammer would be a key part of police enquiries.

Olive Balchin was portrayed as a mysterious woman; according to the brief MEN article she had used four different names and had 2 separate identity cards.

Another paper said that, despite her residence in Manchester, Olive was well known in Birmingham and was a 'spinster.'

The late Olive had been brought up by foster parents in a vicarage, and had recently declined an invitation by her foster brother (a Christian missionary) to live with him.

Tragically, Olive's life was savagely cut short. But Manchester police officers had a solid lead.

A local second-hand trader - by the name of Mr McDonald - reported selling a leather-worker's hammer, just like the murder weapon, to a "pale-faced" and "hatless" man who had appeared at his Downing Street store the previous Saturday, the day before the murder was thought to have taken place.

It wasn't the most precise description of a potential suspect - the headline: 'Hatless man search' would appear in the Belfast Telegraph two days after Olive's body was found - but it was enough for detectives to begin their search for the killer.

A superintendent, W. Page, was put in charge of the investigation and he immediately ordered house-to-house searches of the Deansgate district.

By October 29, nine days after Olive's body had been found, papers across the country, including nationals like the Daily Mirror, were reporting that a 38-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of wilful murder.

Walter Graham Rowland was remanded in custody at Manchester Assizes, charged with taking Olive's life.

Rowland admitted to DI Frank Stainton that he knew Olive, that he had been with her around the time she died, and that he had been on a date with her on October 19, the day before she was found dead.

Other papers reported that this date was actually "an appointment" - suggesting that Olive was a sex worker - but this is, as yet, unconfirmed.

Walter was identified as the man who had last been spotted with Olive and as the man who had purchased the distinctive second-hand hammer.

Rowland pleaded not guilty to murder when initially charged but told the court he had nothing more to say when he first appeared before magistrates.

DI Stainton told the papers that there was a "a good deal in Rowland's statement to be tested."

The police officer didn't seem 100 per cent convinced by Rowland's initial words to police and the court.

He told reporters that some of Rowland's statement was already found "to be false."

A telling past

Originally from Mellor, then in North Derbyshire but now part of Greater Manchester, Rowland was a labourer who already had a telling criminal record.

The 38-year-old had already been charged, and found guilty, of wilful murder back in May, 1934.

Back then, Rowland had been convicted of killing his two-year-old daughter Mavis, who he strangled with a stocking.

As the younger Rowland was told he would be put to death for his actions, the man protested his innocence to the court, claiming that he would never hurt his own child and that the evidence which had convicted him was purely circumstantial.

Rowland's wife was pregnant with their second child at the time and, upon hearing the news of her husband's conviction, collapsed in the court.

At the time the death penalty was mandatory punishment for anyone who committed murder in Britain.

Murderers were automatically hanged in private, behind prison walls, by professional executioners using the long-drop method.

But in June, Rowland enjoyed the rarest of mercies: a reprieve of the death sentence.

According to academic papers later written by professors - regarding the history of the criminal justice system in England - the reprieve was granted because Rowland was found to have an "abnormal" mental state.

The Derbyshire Telegraph reported that Rowland's 2nd child had been born days before the reprieve came through.

The labourer had escaped the noose, but his death sentence was swapped for life in penal servitude, meaning he would spend his final years doing hard labour.

Though this could manifest in useful work, like making fishing nets or postal sacks, it is much more likely that Rowland was destined to do years of useless, back-breaking, exercises specially designed to punish inmates; these included working a crank machine or doing the infamous shot drill.

Rowland was damned to spending his entire natural life inside. But he would only stay behind bars for 8 years.

The coming of World War II in 1939 heralded the most destructive and all-consuming warfare ever seen.

Conscription for Britain's men was already compulsory but, as the war wore on, it was continually expanded and eventually convicted criminals were released on the precondition that they joined the army.

In 1942, after serving just 8 years of his sentence, Rowland was released and signed up to the British Expeditionary Force.

But it was only a matter of months before Rowland was forced out of the army due to his mental state.

Fast forward to 1946, with Rowland arrested for the wilful murder of Olive Balchin, it must have seemed like he was simply referring back to type and his murderous, evil, ways.

The murder trial opened in November.

Initial evidence showed that Rowland had bought a leather workers hammer from a second-hand trader and had also been spotted arguing with Olive the night before her ill-fated demise.

Furthermore, police reports stated that Rowland's first words to officers upon his arrest were tantamount to a confession.

It was claimed that Rowland asked police: "You don't want me for killing that woman do you?"

When this was read out in court Rowland dramatically interrupted, declaring: "That's a lie."

Rowland was also said to have told the police that he could "account" for his movements and wouldn't "admit to anything."

He later told the court that he had been at his home in New Mills after a night drinking in a Stockport pub, when the murder was said to have taken place.

Rowland admitted to having slept with Olive and even claimed to the court that she had given him an STI. This was found to be untrue following a doctor's examination.

In December more evidence was presented to the trial.

Blood stains were found on Rowland's left shoe and doctors had located dust and debris, matching the blitzed out site where Olive's body had been dumped, on the cuff of his trousers.

Olive's distinctive grey hairs had also been picked up on Rowland's overcoat, although no bloodstains were found to be on his clothes.

The evidence seemed weighted against Rowland but the defence had its own arguments to present.

Mr Gibson was the star witness for the defence, he told the court that a man with greasy hair had visited him the day after the murder.

The man gave the name of William Bolton and told Mr Gibson that he came from Birmingham, where Olive was thought to be a well known woman.

Bolton reportedly told Mr Gibson: "I have almost commited a murder."

The defence argued that Bolton could not have been Rowland, a point which rested on the presentation of the labourer's hair.

Rowland's own mother was called to the stand to support the fact that Rowland never used grease or Brylcreem in his hair.

Mrs Rowland told the court that her son had given away a tub of Brilliantine previously gifted to him because he never used it.

This was to form part of a mistaken identity defence. But the jury were not convinced.

Rowland was found guilty of wilful murder on December 17 and sentenced, for the 2nd time in his life, to death.

Luck of the Devil

Rowland was held at Strangeways Prison where he was due to be executed.

The labourer was set to appeal his sentence, ready to fight the death penalty for the second time in 12 years.

Mrs Rowland sent out mass appeals, calling for witnesses to come forward in support of her son's alibi.

Rowland and his solicitor stuck to the narrative that the labourer had been in the Wellington Hotel, Stockport, on the night of the murder.

A police sergeant and two officers, who were drinking at the same watering hole, as well as the pub landlord, were said to have seen Rowland, placing him well away from Deansgate when the killing occurred.

The pub landlord's wife told papers that she remembered seeing a man, who looked just like Rowland, giving a punter five cigarettes on the night of the murder.

A pub signing-in book (commonplace at the time) detailing when Rowland had returned home, was also thought to exist.

Throughout January, three anonymous letters, each one protesting Rowland's innocence, were sent to his solicitor.

The MEN reported on each one, as the build-up to Rowland's appeal continued.

Then, on January 26, something incredible happened.

David John Ware, a man in Walton Goal, Liverpool, having been sentenced for theft and fraud charges, confessed to murdering Olive Balchin.

Ware, a clerk from Glamorganshire, spoke to police, the prison governor, and Rowland's lawyer, telling each one that he was Olive's killer.

But within days Ware retracted his statements, telling the papers that he made the confession out of "swank" - a desire to impress others.

He told reporters that it was "worthwhile being hung to be a hero" (whatever that means) and admitted he had obtained details of the murder from newspapers he read in prison.

Ware's mental stability was also called into question, as the clerk had been discharged from the British Army in 1943 after a diagnosis of manic depressive psychosis.

There was also no forensic evidence tying Ware to the murder scene and it was decided that Rowland's appeal would be rejected.

Rowlands protested his innocence to the very end, writing letters to the prosecution telling them that he would haunt them.

He finished his letter with a line that would later become significant.

It read: "The day will come when this case is quoted in the courts of this country, to show what can happen to a man through mistaken identity."

He went to the gallows on February 27, 1947, with Albert Pierrepoint performing the final act of hanging him.

A twist in the tale

David John Ware was found guilty of attempted murder in 1951.

The man who had previously admitted to murdering Olive Balchin in 1947 was found to have attacked 40-year-old widow Phyllis Adelaide Fuidge with a hammer, grievously wounding her.

Ware was living in Bristol when he committed the crime. He told the police that he often had thoughts of "killing women."

It didn't take long for Ware to be deemed insane and thus not responsible for his actions in law. He was committed to Broadmoor Hospital.

This final twist in the tale, the revelation that Ware was, in fact, fully capable of committing murder, as well as the parallels between his 1951 attack and Olive's murder, led many to view the execution of Rowland as a miscarriage of justice.

Rowland's final letter to the prosecution, and his line about "quoted in the courts of this country" would come true, as his case was referenced in many arguments against the death penalty in Britain.

For some the story of Olive Balchin's murder was one of wrongful conviction.

For others it was purely coincidence.

So who really killed Olive Balchin? Ware or Rowland? We will never know.

(source: manchestereeningnews.co.uk)

OCTOBER 17, 2021:

OKLAHOMA:

Federal appeals court allows Julius Jones, others to rejoin execution lawsuit

A federal court of appeals ordered on Friday that Oklahoma death row prisoners be reinstated to a lawsuit challenging the State’s lethal injection execution protocol. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that an Oklahoma district court erred in dismissing those plaintiffs from the case while the lawsuit remained pending.

Years ago, after a series of botched executions of 2 Black detainees in Oklahoma, death row detainees filed a joint lawsuit. It cited the state’s inhumane and flawed lethal injection protocol.

“Although ‘a district court’s decision to grant certification under Rule 54(b) merits substantial deference…we conclude the district court abused its discretion in certifying its judgement as final under Rule 54(b) in this case,” the Tenth Circuit Court wrote.

Prisoners allowed back into lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s execution practices

Former Gov. Mary Fallin halted all executions in the state after Clayton Lockett’s botched 2014 execution and Charles Warner’s in 2015. In Lockett’s case, the nurse administering the IV didn’t stick the needle directly into the bloodstream. The drug cocktail instead flooded surrounding tissue, resulting in Lockett experiencing extreme agony before dying of a heart attack nearly 45 minutes later.

In the case of Warner, officials admitted to using the wrong combination of drugs. Both men were African Americans in a state where Black people make up less than 10% of the population.

Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly supported a 2016 ballot measure to enshrine the death penalty in the state constitution. Yet, 10 people have been exonerated from death row in Oklahoma’s history, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Now, as Oklahoma resumes executions, the first 2 scheduled for death are also Black men, John Marion Grant, and Julius Jones, respectively.

Tenth Circuit court reverses district court’s ruling

Regarding the lethal injection lawsuit, the district court had ruled on August 11, 2021 that the prisoners failed to specify an alternative execution method for their own specific executions.

In addition to the procedural issue that led the Tenth Circuit to reinstate them, those prisoners have argued that the law requires them only to specify an available alternative method, which each did when he signed on to the third amended complaint, according to documents shared with The Black Wall Street Times.

The district court has scheduled a trial on the merits of the Eighth Amendment challenge to Oklahoma’s midazolam execution procedure beginning February 28, 2022.

Attorney General set execution dates months before 2022 trial over execution protocol

In May 2020, the Oklahoma Attorney General assured the court and the plaintiffs that he would not seek execution dates for any party to the lawsuit while it remains pending in the district court, according to Julius Jones’ legal team.

Yet, at the end of August, 2021, Attorney General John O’Connor requested execution dates for Jones and other prisoners months before the trial over Oklahoma’s execution protocol.

With Friday’s ruling, the reinstated prisoners are urging the attorney general to “stand by his promise” and withdraw their recently scheduled execution dates.

Dale Baich is an Assistant Federal Public Defender representing prisoners of the lawsuit.

“The Attorney General made a commitment to the court and the parties that the state would not carry out executions while this case was pending in the district court,” Baich said on Friday. “Now that the plaintiffs are back in the lawsuit, we expect the Attorney General to keep his promise and ask the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate the scheduled execution dates.”

Oklahoma wants to use same execution protocol that it botched twice before

The State intends to use the same 3 drugs, including the risky sedative midazolam, that were previously used in the problematic executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner and the halted execution of Richard Glossip. Oklahoma’s protocol also continues to use a paralytic, which advocates say is an unnecessary and dangerous aspect of the process that serves only to mask problems from public view.

Evidence from numerous executions shows that prisoners have suffered pulmonary edema during the process, an agonizing experience akin to waterboarding. Midazolam not only cannot prevent prisoners from feeling the pain caused by the 2nd and 3rd execution drugs, it is also incapable of keeping them in a state of unawareness while they experience the drowning sensation of pulmonary edema.

Furthermore, defense attorneys say Oklahoma’s use of a paralytic exacerbates the risk that prisoners will suffer pulmonary edema. Defense attorneys argue the paralytic doesn’t hasten death, but rather serves only to make it appear as if death is occurring peacefully while hiding the prisoner’s internal suffering. They say the prisoners cannot scream in agony because the drug paralyzes their vocal cords.

For their part, supporters across the state and nation have organized daily vigils and weekly events to help keep Jones’ spirit alive ahead of his Oct. 26 clemency hearing, where he will address the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board directly for the first time. Oklahoma plans to execute him weeks later, on November 18.

On Thursday, a day head of schedule, officials placed Julius Jones under death watch. Authorities moved him to a smaller room with no personal belongings, aside from legal and religious reading materials. He’s under 24-hour surveillance with armed guards and bright lights that never go out. The torture-like conditions, which appear to violate the U.S. Constitution, take place days before he will argue for his life.

With Governor Stitt holding the final decision whether to grant life or death, supporters of Jones are praying that death watch won’t break Jones’ mind ahead of his last opportunity for clemency. Jones has maintained his innocence for over 20 years in a murder trial plagued by alleged prosecutorial misconduct, racial bias, and an ineffective council. Jones’ attorneys never allowed anyone from his family to testify.

“I have spent the past twenty years on death row for a crime I did not commit, did not witness, and was not at. I feel terrible for Mr. Howell and his family, but I was not responsible,” Julius Jones wrote in his commutation petition.

“I did not have a chance to tell my story to the jury at my trial because my lawyers rested the case without calling any witnesses, including my mother, father, sister and brother who would have told the jury I was home with them when this crime was committed.”

Supporters stand strong for Julius Jones

No one from the jury heard an alibi claiming Jones was at home with his family the day Edmond man Paul Howell was murdered in his driveway in 1999. The trial involved 11 White jurors and one Black one. Meanwhile, one juror later admitted hearing a fellow juror allude to hanging Jones and avoiding a trial altogether.

Furthermore, four prisoners unconnected to each other stated Christopher Jordan, Jones’ co-defendant, admitted to killing Howell and framing Jones for the murder. Prosecutors released Jordan after serving 15 years.

On Saturday, Oct. 16, organizers will march for Jones. They’ll meet at Memorial Park in northeast OKC at 2 p.m. and march to the Oklahoma County Courthouse. On Sunday, a freedom vigil will take place in McAlester at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary where Jones is being held.

Cece Jones-Davis is a family friend, faith leader, and organizer with Justice for Julius. For years, she’s been a tireless advocate for Jones, along with his sister Antoinette. Jones-Davis has called on leaders across the state to speak up for Julius Jones before it’s too late.

“Oklahoma leaders, it is your moral obligation to help save the life of an innocent man in your state. This isn’t my work or “their” work. It is OUR work.”

(source: blackwallstreettimes.com)

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

A witness to murderer's execution

Welcome back. 21-years and counting down to October 28th. It’s the day when Gay Carter‘s family expects that justice will finally be done at the state prison in McAlester, Oklahoma with the execution of John Marion Grant. Executions have been on hold in Oklahoma for the past seven years following a botched lethal injection but now state officials believe the process has been perfected.

I have applied for a press pass to witness the execution but my thoughts about following the story are up in the air. I frequently turn to my book of epigrams that Waite Phillips and Will Rogers wrote for guidance on difficult issues but searching for their thoughts on capital punishment or justice in a matter of murder so far, I have found nothing to help me.

I’ve seen death before but to be a witness at a man’s execution is something different even though this is a man who was found guilty of a vicious murder that was witnessed by several people. He was also refused clemency by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and at this point, the victim’s family, the Assistant Attorney General Joshua Lockett and Attorney General John O’Conner all want to see the jury’s death penalty sentence carried out.

With that said, this part of the story will focus on Gay Carter who was a state employee in the cafeteria of Connor Correctional Center in Hominy when it happened. 60-year-old Gay was described as friendly and outgoing and someone who respected the inmates, always treating them fairly. On November 13, 1998, she was supervising inmate workers in the kitchen when John Grant stabbed her 16 times resulting in her death. We will never know exactly why he did this because Grant has twice refused to appear before the Pardon and Parole Board and now, unless Governor Stitt grants him clemency, he will be injected with a mixture of drugs causing his death.

My research indicates that lethal injection as a form of capital punishment was first developed in the United States but it has since been adopted by other countries. China, Thailand, Guatemala, Taiwan, Nigeria and Vietnam all employ lethal injection in death penalty cases although execution by firing squad or electrocution is not uncommon in some of these countries.

I have also learned that since 1976 Oklahoma has had the highest number of executions per capita of any state in the country and in 2010, was the 1st state and the first jurisdiction in the world to adopt lethal injection. Since 1990, Oklahoma has carried out 109 executions and according to the prison information website, there are currently 44 men scheduled to be executed in the near future.

There have been a few cases when the Governor has granted clemency to an inmate but governors rarely reverse the Pardon and Parole Board. As the board has already ruled against Mr. Grant, any action by Governor Stitt is very unlikely. It is worth noting that the death penalty was approved by almost a 70% majority of Oklahoma voters.

Osage County D.A. Mike Fisher will be attending Grant’s execution and I have contacted him for his thoughts and advice. Look for a follow-up story from him and me after October 28th.

(source: Op-Ed; Dale Lewis, examiner-enterpirse.com)

USA:

As the killers who terrorised their families face execution, relatives disagree on whether that adds up to justice

By the time Dylann Roof went on trial, Reverend Sharon Risher was already starting to have her doubts about the death penalty.

In 2015, Roof, an avowed white supremacist, shot and killed nine people at a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, after they had welcomed him into their Bible study session. The dead included Reverend Risher’s mother, Ethel Lance, and her cousins Susie and Tywanza Sanders, as well as a number of dear friends. Tywanza, at 26 the youngest victim, died trying to shield Susie, the oldest at 87, from Roof’s gun.

He had tried to reason with Roof, according to witnesses, telling him, “You don’t have to do this.”

“I have to do this because you are raping our women and taking over the world,” Roof replied.

But when Reverend Risher, a former hospital chaplain, heard that prosecutors were going to seek the death penalty against Roof, she was torn. She began considering a mercy that had never occurred to her family’s killer.

“In my heart, as my mother’s child, I wanted him to be dead like her,” she told The Independent. “Going back to my Christian faith, I knew that I didn’t want that. I realised that even though he had done this horrific thing, my faith tells me that God is a God of restoration and redemption.”

Still, she didn’t share what she was thinking about Roof’s fate just yet. Many in her tight knit community wanted to see Roof dead for what he had done. Others, like Reverend Risher’s sister Nadine Collier, had publicly expressed their forgiveness.

“I forgive you,” Ms Collier said in 2015 at Roof’s bond hearing, his first appearance in public since the massacre. “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”

But Reverend Risher wasn’t ready to go there just yet.

“When I heard her say she forgave him, all I could do was scream and holler. That was like 48 hours after everything had happened. I was not on board with that,” she said. “I’m still in a fog trying to get my brain to even accept what had happened.”

Things began to crystallise during Roof’s trial. Knowing that the young man might be executed, Risher had decided to research more about the death penalty, and she was shocked to learn more about its history of racial bias and its enormous rate of error. She was in the courtroom the entire trial, and her mind was made up the day the jury decided on execution.

“One juror caught my eye and turned her head real quick, like she didn’t want to look at me,” she said. “Then they came back with the death penalty and I just kid of sat there, and that’s when I realised, even after all of this, I don’t want him to be put to death.”

That may not matter. Roof was convicted on 33 counts of federal hate crimes and sentenced to death in 2016. This August, a federal appeals court unanimously upheld his sentence, despite arguments from his lawyers that Roof suffers from “delusion” and was wrongfully allowed to represent himself at the sentencing stage of his trial. President Joe Biden has said he personally opposes capital punishment, but his Justice Department is still pursuing the death penalty for Roof.

The death penalty is a fixture of the criminal legal system, and scholars and activists have increasingly shone a light on its arbitrariness, its inaccuracy, its roots in the ugliest parts of America racism. What gets mentioned less is the often enormous gulf between how family members and victims of the crimes at issue feel, and what that legal system delivers as punishment, as healing.

The Independent spoke with those connected to a host of different tragedies — the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing — and they have a range of opinions on the death penalty, and whether it delivers closure, let alone justice. But one thing is clear: none of them felt like the process was giving them closure.

Elizabeth Norden’s son JP and Paul both lost legs in the Boston Bombing. Like Risher, she was there in person for nearly the entire trial, where one of the bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was convicted on all 30 counts against him in 2015. Authorities called it “one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our nation’s history.” (His brother and co-conspirator Tamerlan died in a shootout with police following the bombing.)

Norden told The Independent that a death sentence wouldn’t bring her closure — that’s not possible for her after such a tragedy — but she hopes it would have a deterrent effect on future crimes. (Evidence has not shown that the death penalty definitively drives down violent crime.)

“I’m not an eye for an eye. I’m not that type of person. I struggle with, how do you want to take somebody’s life?” she said. “But there’s not a shadow of a reasonable doubt what he and his brother did.”

She said she is understanding about why other Boston Marathon bombing families have come out against the death penalty, but for her, execution will mean one step towards healing, though it’s a process she feels will never be done.

“I’m 59. My only hope now is that I am alive to see through. How sad is that?” she said. “Will [the execution] change my life? Will there ever be closure? Absolutely not. For me, as a mother, I have suffered the deepest sadness for my sons ... How do you ever really let go of something like that? Whether he comes up in the news every single day or not, I watch my sons put their legs on.”

She’s channelled some of that pain into advocacy. Norden now runs a charity called A Leg Forever, which helps people pay for prosthetic limbs, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and need to be replaced every few years. But anything short of a death sentence will not be enough to her.

“I don’t know how having him rot in prison is going to make you forget about it,” she said. “For me it doesn’t.”

The Supreme Court seems like it may give Norden her wish. During oral arguments for an appeal of Tsarnaev’s death sentence on Wednesday, the conservative-leaning Supreme Court seemed unmoved by arguments that the terrorist didn’t have a fair trial because of alleged problems with the jury and evidentiary process. Though what a death sentence means during the Biden era, with a president who opposes capital punishment, remains to be seen.

“I’m wondering what the government’s endgame is here,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked lawyers for the federal government. “If you win presumably that means that [Tsarnaev] is relegated to living under threat of a death sentence that the government doesn’t plan to carry out, so I’m just having trouble following the point.”

Until the White House resolves its own feelings on the death penalty, Tsarnaev and Norden will be in a kind of mutual limbo.

For Joanne Hutchison, a survivor of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing at the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, the execution of Timothy McVeigh was a huge relief.

Hutchison was about 50 feet from the bomb when it went off, and she was buried in the rubble after the blast. After the attack, she was glued to the TV and transcripts of the trial. She wanted to know what had happened, and what would happen to the man who killed 168 people, including 19 children.

Americans shocked by senseless Charleston shootings

Her husband got a job offer in Texas not long after the explosion, and she said she had to be “dragged kicking and screaming” away from Oklahoma City. In June of 2001, the federal government used capital punishment for the first time since 1963 and executed McVeigh. Hutchison went for a drive with the windows down and felt a weight off her shoulders.

“It was an extreme relief to me that he wasn’t where he could get out and do it again and do this to other people,” she said.

She knows that political attitudes around the death penalty are shifting, but she’s still steadfast in her support. Men who kill innocents and children don’t deserve to be alive, she believes, and it still stings for her that McVeigh’s accomplice, Terry Nichols, is alive and in prison, being sustained by the US taxpayer. It feels like an insult to everything she has gone through.

“It’s impossible for someone to know how it affects people who were injured, lost loved ones, even survived. It’s truly a trauma,” she said. “I don’t think any of us realised what a trauma this was. We were in shock. Even our spouses, our family members—they’ll never understand exactly what we went through. And we don’t want them to. We don’t want anybody to have to go through what we did.”

Hutchison has met with 9/11 families, and she says when you look into the eyes of someone who has been through such a unique horror, you can tell you understand each other at a level where words aren’t even necessary.

“You get it. You understand, just by looking at them,” she said.

The death penalty process, however, is a trauma unto itself for some. Jonathan Mann’s father John Mann was brutally murdered in 2017 in Ohio by a man named Thomas Knuff. Mann says the lengthy capital process, which often lasts for decades, has meant he has to keep reliving one of the worst moments of his life.

“I just have to relive the horror over and over of what happened to my dad because this hasn’t been put to bed,” he said.

More than tough justice, what Mann wanted after his father’s death was support. Gas money driving to and from the various trials and appeals has been a major cost, and he wasn’t eligible for the federal programmes that exist to support crime victims. He couldn’t afford to bury his father, but he didn’t qualify for funerary assistance because his father had used drugs. Mann didn’t qualify for counselling assistance, either.

“The system has failed us,” Mann said. “My experience is not atypical.” Mann, who supported the death penalty before it became an unwanted presence in his own life, is now vice chair of Ohioans to Stop Executions, a criminal justice advocacy group. Reverend Sharon Risher has turned towards activism, too. She regularly speaks about ending the death penalty and ending gun violence on behalf of groups like Death Penalty Action and Moms Demand Action.

There’s a certain historical irony to what she’s doing. The death penalty shares roots with lynching in America, and has always been disproportionately applied to Black people like her. The Charleston shooting happened on a street named for John C Calhoun, a South Carolina statesman who was one of slavery’s most vocal defenders. Dylann Roof is the first person in US history to be sentenced to death on federal hate crimes charges. So to work against his death sentence represents a wholly new historical dynamic. But to be a Black woman fighting to keep a racist punishment from killing a racist white man is worth it to her.

“I understood that the death penalty was given more disproportionately to Black and brown people than it was to white people, I did my research, started to look at things,” she said. “I didn’t want the death penalty for anybody. He just happened to be in that group.”

That is, a human being.

If there’s one thing that unites all of these survivors, it’s that no matter what they believe about the death penalty, they feel no one should have to experience the pain they have in their own lives. Their methods for achieving that goal are different, but they have all, in some form, fought the best way they know how to make the world one that honours the people with that unique look in their eye that says they’ve been through something unimaginable.

(source: theindependent.co.uk)

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

Biden’s death penalty hypocrisy

The Biden administration is hypocritical in simultaneously imposing a moratorium on the federal death penalty and urging that the Supreme Court reinstate the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Indeed, the Biden administration’s choice to defend capital punishment for Tsarnaev reflects the inherently arbitrary nature of death penalty decisions.

For 17 years, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, there was a hiatus in executions carried out by the federal government. The Trump administration, though, aggressively changed course and carried out 13 executions. This was more than in the previous seven decades combined. No president in more than 120 years had overseen as many executions of federal prisoners as Trump.

As a candidate for president, Joe Biden said he opposed the federal death penalty. Therefore, it was no surprise when Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland, on July 1, announced a moratorium on executions by the federal government. As Garland wrote in the moratorium memorandum, “Serious concerns have been raised about the continued use of the death penalty across the country, including arbitrariness in its application, disparate impact on people of color, and the troubling number of exonerations in capital and other serious cases.”

In light of this acknowledgment, it is puzzling that the Justice Department is urging the Supreme Court to uphold the death penalty for Tsarnaev. Dzhokhar and his brother Tamerlan were responsible for the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013 that killed three people and injured hundreds of others. Tamerlan was killed by police, but Dzhokhar was tried for murder and sentenced to death.

The Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit overturned his death sentence on the grounds that the trial judge had not done enough to ensure an unbiased jury in the much-publicized case and because the judge did not allow the jury to hear evidence that Tamerlan had murdered 3 people before the bombing. Dzhokhar had argued that he had been under the control and influence of his older brother, a violent murderer.

The appeals court did not overturn Tsarnaev’s conviction, only the death sentence; under its ruling, he would have remained in prison for the rest of his life. Given Biden’s opposition to capital punishment, there was no reason to seek to reinstate the death sentence.

In going to the Supreme Court, the administration had to engage in a review of the case and decide that a death sentence was appropriate for Tsarnaev, despite the appellate court’s careful analysis of the serious flaws of the sentencing phase. In fact, the Justice Department, in its briefs and arguments to the Supreme Court, offered no compelling explanation of why execution is warranted in this case as opposed to other cases.

This failure goes to the heart of the problem: There is no principled way to decide when capital punishment is justified — which is why every application is inevitably arbitrary.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer has called this arbitrariness the antithesis of the rule of law. “The factors that most clearly ought to affect application of the death penalty — namely, comparative egregiousness of the crime — often do not,” he wrote. “Other studies show that circumstances that ought not to affect application of the death penalty, such as race, gender, or geography, often do.”

The only explanation for the Biden administration’s action in the Tsarnaev case is the enormous publicity that surrounded his crime. But surely media attention cannot be the factor that determines whether capital punishment is warranted.

It is possible that the government doesn’t actually intend to execute Tsarnaev even if it wins at the Supreme Court, though the government’s attorney suggested otherwise at oral argument on Wednesday.

Everything Garland said in July is exactly right: The death penalty is imposed in an arbitrary and unprincipled manner, it is disproportionately used against people of color, and there have been many instances of innocent people being wrongly convicted and sentenced to death.

Biden understands this well. Instead of defending a death sentence in court, he should end the use of the federal death penalty and commute all capital sentences to life in prison, including that of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

(source: Op-Ed; Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law and a contributing writer to Opinion. He is the author most recently of “Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights.”----Los Angeles Times)

MALAYSIA:

Harrowing cries of single mother handed death sentence captured in viral video

A video featuring the harrowing cries of a single mother right after she was handed a mandatory death sentence for the possession and distribution of illegal narcotics has gone viral. Hairun Jalmani, 55, a single mother of 9 was sentenced to mandatory death at the Tawau High Court, Sabah on Friday after being found guilty of possessing and distributing drugs 3 years ago.

(source: malaysiakini.com)

PAKISTAN:

Court awards double death sentence to 3 persons on rape, murder charges

A court of law on Saturday awarded double death sentence to 3 accused for the rape and murder of housemaid in Taxila. Additional and Sessions Judge (ASJ) Khalid Mehmood Cheema awarded the sentence to the accused Nisar Khan, Umer Shehzad and Naheem Sajjad on 2 counts. The court also imposed Rs 500,000 fine on each accused. The accused had caught a woman while she was going to her workplace in Taxila in September 2020. The troika dragged her to a nearby deserted place and gang raped her and killed her by wrapping a rope around her neck. Taxila police, following the orders of CPO Muhammad Ahsan Younas, had registered a rape and murder case against accused and rounded them later. An investigation team of Rawalpindi police, under the supervision of the than SSP Investigation Muhammad Faisal Kamran, collected evidence in the rape and murder case and got punished the troika by producing in court of law. CPO Muhammad Ahsan Younas also applauded the performance of investigation and legal team of Rawalpindi police. “Harsh punishment to hardcore criminals is the victory of justice,” he said.

(source: The Nation)

INDIA:

see: https://www.livelaw.in/columns/uthra-murder-death-penalty-trial-court-awarding-life-imprisonment-collective-conscience-183818

ZIMBABWE:

see https://www.sundaymail.co.zw/capital-punishment-denied

IRAN----juvenile execution postponed

Iran postpones execution of man arrested aged 17: report----"The Iranian authorities must immediately halt all plans to execute Arman Abdolali," Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

Iran has again postponed the planned execution of a man arrested at age 17, media in the country reported on Saturday, after international appeals for his life to be spared.

"Arman Abdolali's sentence which was to be carried out this morning... has been stopped again, and the young man was sent back to prison last night," Etemad newspaper said on its website, without elaborating.

It is the second time within a week that the execution of 25-year-old Abdolali -- who was arrested in 2014 and subsequently convicted of murdering his girlfriend -- has been postponed, according to Iranian media.

The Hamshahri newspaper had said this week that the death sentence had been postponed until Saturday, adding that Abdolali would "probably be executed soon."

Amnesty International had said on Monday that Abdolali was moved to solitary confinement in a prison in Karaj, west of Tehran, in preparation for his execution on Wednesday.

The London-based rights group said he had been sentenced to death twice for murdering his girlfriend but that the execution was stopped both times following an international outcry.

"The Iranian authorities must immediately halt all plans to execute Arman Abdolali," Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

UN human rights experts also appealed to Iran to halt the execution.

"International human rights law unequivocally forbids imposition of the death sentence on anyone under 18 years of age," said the Geneva-based UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Iran has denied that its use of the death penalty for crimes committed as minors should be taken as a sign that it violates human rights.

The Islamic republic executed at least 246 people last year, retaining its place as the most prolific user of capital punishment in the region and the 2nd worldwide after China, according to Amnesty.

(source: kurdistan24.net)

OCTOBER 16, 2021:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas Gives Kosoul Chanthakoummane New Execution Date of November 10, 2021

Kosoul Chanthakoummane has a new execution date of 6 pm local time, on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. Texas executions occur at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville. 41-year-old Kosoul is convicted of murdering 40-year-old Sarah Ann Walker on July 8, 2006, in Mckinney, Texas. For the last 14 years, Kosoul has been on Texas’ death row.

Kosoul spent time in juvenile facilities growing up for robbery. He also attacked a friend, causing six fractured ribs and a concussion, in addition to other injuries. Kosoul was previously convicted of aggravated robbery and kidnapping in North Carolina, and after serving his sentence, he was paroled to Texas to live with relatives. At the time of Sarah’s murder, Kosoul was wanted for a parole violation. While in Texas, Kosoul worked as a deliveryman and a warehouseman.

On July 8, 2006, Mamie Sharpless, a real estate agent, received a call from a man claiming to be “Chan Lee” who had just moved to Texas from North Carolina. He wanted to look at a townhouse in the Craig Ranch neighborhood of McKinney, Texas. Mamie agreed to meet with the man between 11:30 am and noon later that day.

Mamie and her husband arrived at the meeting place and waited for “Chan” to arrive. A short time later, a man in a white Ford Mustang drove by and parked in front of a model home. The couple approached the car and asked the man if he was Chan, which he denied.

According to testimony at Kosoul Chanthakoummane’s trial, the man in the vehicle was Chanthakoummane. Chan never showed up.

While Mamie was showing the townhome to another potential buyer, Mamie’s husband observed Sarah Walker, another real estate agent, arrive. After Mamie finished her showing, she and her husband went to Sarah’s model home. They entered around 1:10 pm and found it “ransacked,” with a large pool of blood in the dining room and a trail of blood to the kitchen, where they found Sarah’s body.

An autopsy determined Sarah had been struck over the head several times as she attempted to defend herself. The attack was powerful enough to break her nose and fracture her teeth. Sarah received 33 stabs wounds, 10 of which penetrated vital organs. Sarah also had a bite mark on her neck and she was robbed of a new Rolex watch and a ring.

DNA showed that some of the blood at the crime scene belonged to Chanthakoummane, who claimed that “old cuts” on his hands “from work” was the cause. Chanthakoummane told police he had broken down in front of the model home and entered to get a drink of water, but was unable to turn on the facet. A dentist matched the bite mark on Sarah’s neck to Chanthakoummane’s bite, although another expert rejected that conclusion.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Sarah Walker. Please pray for strength for the family of Kosoul Chanthakoummane. Pray that if Kosoul should not be executed for any reason, evidence is presented before his execution. Please pray that Kosoul may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)

FLORIDA:

Florida Exoneree Robert DuBoise Sues Tampa Police Alleging Fabricated Evidence Sent Him to Death Row

Death-row exoneree Robert DuBoise (pictured) is suing the City of Tampa, 4 Tampa police officers, and the forensic odontologist who falsely testified against him, alleging that they fabricated evidence that led to his wrongful conviction and death sentence. DuBoise was exonerated in August 2020 after a Conviction Integrity Unit reviewed his case and new DNA evidence excluded him as the perpetrator of the rape and murder for which he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death 37 years earlier. DuBoise’s conviction was based on junk-science bite-mark evidence and false testimony from a prison informant. DuBoise’s attorney, Dan Marshall of the Human Rights Defense Center, said, “This case is a prime example of what can go wrong when the police do not use proper procedures. An innocent man goes to jail for decades.”

The lawsuit alleges that four officers who were involved in the original investigation conspired with Dr. Richard Souviron, the forensic odontologist, to present fabricated evidence at trial. The officers reached out to Dr. Souviron for help in this case after hearing him speak at a meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, where he said, “If you tell me that is the guy that did it, I will go into court and say that is the guy that did it.” The officers used beeswax to take a mold of DuBoise’s teeth because, according to the lawsuit, “another officer in the Tampa Police Department operated a honey business on the side.” Beeswax was not an accepted method of identifying teeth marks. Dr. Souviron compared that mold to a wound on the victim, initially saying that the person who left the bite mark would have a missing front tooth or a gap between the upper front teeth. Despite DuBoise not having such a gap, Dr. Souviron then claimed DuBoise’s teeth were a match to the victim’s wound. When a different dentist later examined the victim’s wound, he concluded that it was not a bite mark at all.

The lawsuit further alleges that the officers conspired with Claude Butler, the jailhouse informant who testified at DuBoise’s trial. According to the Florida Innocence Project, “Knowing that their physical evidence was poor at best, the defendant officers allegedly then conspired to get two informants, including one suspect facing a long-term sentence for unrelated crimes, to turn state’s evidence.” Police allegedly met with Butler on several occasions, helping him to fabricate a confession from DuBoise.

DuBoise says he is not bringing the lawsuit because he is bitter, but because “we are trying to move forward. Make sure it does not happen to someone else.” He wants “to help fix a broken system.” DuBoise said that if he does not take a stand now and demand justice then, “you’re going to have somebody else’s son get into death row for something they didn’t do.”

Florida law allows the state to provide $50,000 compensation for each year that someone was wrongfully incarcerated. DuBoise was incarcerated for almost 37 years, which means he would be owed $1.85 million. For DuBoise to receive that money, the Florida state legislature must vote to approve the award. Representative Andrew Learned submitted House Bill 6501 to the Florida State legislature for the 2022 session, calling for the $1.85 million compensation for DuBoise. “Taking a man’s liberty, almost his life, is an unconscionable error by our State. DNA evidence that was initially ignored fingered the real criminal so now Robert is free, but without any compensation for what we took from him,” Rep. Learned said in a statement on Twitter. Marshall says they are filing the lawsuit because it “is important to put a more realistic value on somebody’s freedom for 37 years, for missing out on every important part of somebody’s life. He hasn’t been able to get married or have kids. He missed the death of his father.”

Financial settlements and jury awards following wrongful convictions have become an underappreciated hidden cost of the death penalty. Gage County, Nebraska, was forced to raise property taxes and seek a state bailout after the “Beatrice Six” successfully sued the county for official misconduct in the capital prosecutions that led to their wrongful convictions. The $28.1 civil judgment against the county exceeded its entire annual budget. North Carolina death-row exonerees Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were awarded $75 million by a federal jury in May 2021. The two men sought damages from several law enforcement departments involved in the official misconduct that resulted in them being sentenced to death and spending 31 years in prison. Exonerees in Cleveland and Philadelphia were also granted multi-million dollar awards to compensate for misconduct that contributed to wrongful convictions.

Florida has the highest number of death-row exonerations with DuBoise being the 30th death-row prisoner to be exonerated in Florida since 1973. The state has executed 99 prisoners during that period, or one exoneration for every 3.3 executions. DuBoise is the 172nd documented death-row exoneration in the U.S. since 1973. Prior to DuBoise, Florida’s last death-row exoneration was in the case of Clifford Williams, Jr., who was freed in March 2019 after serving 42 years for a murder he did not commit. In June 2020, Florida authorized $2.15 million in compensation to Williams for his wrongful conviction.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Ruling could block Alabama execution scheduled next week

An appellate court on Friday ordered a judge to consider a request to block an Alabama execution next week as attorneys argue the low-IQ inmate should have been given help understanding the prison paperwork that laid the groundwork for the planned lethal injection. The 3-judge panel directed the district court to decide a request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from executing Willie B. Smith III on Thursday.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a federal judge prematurely dismissed a lawsuit arguing that Smith was due help under the Americans with Disabilities Act in understanding paperwork related to execution method selection. The panel ruled a judge erred in saying Smith did not have standing to bring the claim.

Lawyers for Smith said he has an IQ in the 70s and should have received help under the 1990 act that bars discrimination against those with disabilities.

Thursday’s execution date and plan is still in place. However, John Palombi, an attorney for Smith said the decision requires the district court judge to decide whether to issue a preliminary injunction.

“If the motion for preliminary injunction is granted, it would stop Mr. Smith’s execution and allow this case, which was filed long before the State asked for an execution date for Mr. Smith, to continue with discovery and depositions and go to trial as scheduled in June 2022,” Palombi wrote in an email.

Smith was convicted of the 1991 kidnapping and murder of Sharma Ruth Johnson, 22. Prosecutors said Smith abducted Johnson at gunpoint from an ATM in Birmingham, stole $80 from her and then took her to a cemetery where he shot her in the back of the head.

The 11th Circuit ruling centered on what, if any, obligations the state had in helping state inmates understand a brief window in which they could change their requested execution method.

Lethal injection is the main execution method used in Alabama. But after lawmakers authorized nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method in 2018, the new law gave death row inmates a 30-day window to select nitrogen hypoxia as their execution method.

The Federal Defenders for the Middle District of Alabama, who defend death row inmates but weren’t representing Smith at the time, drafted an election form for their clients to request nitrogen. The prison warden later give every death row inmate a copy of the form.

Smith did not turn in a form selecting nitrogen, paving the way for the state to execute him next week by lethal injection. The state has not developed a procedure for using nitrogen as an execution method, and at least for now is not scheduling executions with nitrogen hypoxia.

The state argued Smith could not bring the claim because Smith never gave any indication that he wanted to request nitrogen. Smith also had a conversation with his then-lawyer in 2018 when the form was distributed, an attorney for the state told the judges.

“The evidence is he talked to his lawyer in June: Nothing,” Alabama solicitor general Edmund G. LaCour told the panel during arguments Wednesday “He did have access to assistance. It’s plain as day.”

This is Alabama’s 2nd attempt this year to carry out Smith’s death sentence. The state called off a prior execution plan last Feb. 12 after the U.S. Supreme Court maintained an injunction saying he could not be put to death without his pastor present. The reprieve came the same night of his scheduled lethal injection as he waited in a holding cell near the death chamber.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Appeals court rules Alabama judge must reconsider Willie B. Smith’s disability claim ahead of execution

Ahead of an Alabama death row inmate’s scheduled execution next week, a federal district court judge must reconsider his disability claim.

On Friday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated an earlier ruling by District Court Judge Emily Marks that dismissed Willie B. Smith’s claim on technical grounds.

“Upon review, and with the benefit of oral argument,” the appeals court stated, “we conclude that the district court erred because Smith sufficiently alleged standing in his complaint. Accordingly, we vacate the district’s sua sponte dismissal and remand for the consideration of the preliminary injunction motion on the merits.”

Smith, who has an IQ of 70, was convicted of the 1991 murder of Sharma Ruth Johnson, the sister of a Birmingham police detective. Smith’s attorneys claim prison officials violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act when they did not provide him a reasonable accommodation to allow him to understand he had a 30-day period to opt into execution by nitrogen suffocation.

An execution using the method, which involves replacing oxygen needed to breathe with nitrogen gas, has never been carried out in the United States. Execution through nitrogen suffocation was approved by the Alabama Legislature in 2018, making Alabama the third state in the country — including Oklahoma and Mississippi — to have authorized its use.

While the lower court is now required to rule on the preliminary injunction, is it still undecided whether Smith’s execution will proceed on Thursday, Oct. 21. However, if the injunction is granted by Marks, the execution will be delayed until Smith’s disability claim has been adjudicated.

Before Marks dismissed Smith’s claim on technical grounds in late September, the issue was scheduled for trial in 2022.

(source: WIAT news)

TENNESSEE:

Pervis Payne seeks to disqualify Shelby County District Attorney General's Office from death penalty case

Pervis Payne’s attorneys are seeking to have the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office disqualified from working on Payne’s case due to a possible conflict of interest, one the District Attorney General’s Office says does not exist.

Friday, Payne's attorney Kelley Henry argued that Steve Jones, the assistant district attorney assigned to prosecute Payne's case, worked as a capital case staff attorney from 1996 through 1998, providing legal guidance to judges regarding death penalty matters at the same time as Payne's post-conviction and other proceedings were pending in the court.

"There are just so many questions we can't answer at this juncture," Henry said. "There's no way to untether his work from the Shelby County DA's Office, which then requires a new DA's Office to come in so they don't have access to potentially privileged information, so the taint is removed from these proceedings so we can move forward with the public having a sense of integrity over these hearings."

Jones said he did not work on the Payne case as a capital case attorney, and that Henry has known that all along. The District Attorney General’s Office requested that the court deny the motion to disqualify it.

Tennessee rules of professional conduct prohibit any attorney from advocacy in connection with any matter in which he participated personally and substantially as a judicial law clerk or staff attorney.

Pervis Payne listens to arguments for a motion regarding his intellectual disability claim at Shelby County Criminal Court on Friday, July 16, 2021. Payne was convicted of murder in a 1988 trial of the deaths of Millington woman Charisse Christopher, 28, and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie. The petition, filed this May in Shelby County Criminal Court, argues that Payne is ineligible for the death penalty due to his intellectual disability.

If Judge Paula Skahan were to disqualify the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office from handling the Payne case, a special prosecutor would have to be appointed, which would likely result in a delay in the proceedings.

Currently, the case is set for a Dec. 13 evidentiary hearing to determine whether Payne is intellectually disabled, which would make him ineligible for the death penalty.

Payne is convicted of the 1987 deaths of Millington woman Charisse Christopher, 28, and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie. Christopher’s 3-year-old son, Nicholas, survived multiple stab wounds in the brutal attack that took place in Christopher’s apartment.

Payne has maintained his innocence. In his 1988 trial, Payne said that he discovered the gruesome crime scene after hearing calls for help through the open door of the apartment.

He said he bent down to try to help, getting blood on his clothes and pulling at the knife still lodged in Christopher's throat. When a white police officer arrived, Payne, who is Black, said he panicked and ran, fearing he would be seen as the prime suspect.

Henry said she became concerned about a possible conflict of interest in the District Attorney General's Office when Jones brought another attorney, Leslie Byrd, to a meeting to discuss the Payne case. Byrd, Henry said, had worked on a DNA testing case regarding Payne in 2006.

Henry then wrote Jones to ask whether an ethics wall had been erected with Byrd due to her previous employment as a capital case staff attorney.

"Neither she nor I handle any cases for this office on which we worked on as Capital Case Staff Attorneys," Jones wrote back.

That led Henry to look into Jones' employment as a capital case staff attorney, she said, realizing he worked as such at the same time as Payne's case was before the court.

“It’s not just a matter of did the capital case staff attorney draft an opinion, it’s what information did the capital case staff attorney learn during his or her tenure?” she said.

The onus is on the District Attorney General's Office to issue a written screening mechanism to the court to ensure there is no conflict of interest, Henry said.

Skahan said she will issue a ruling on the motion in the future.

(source: Memphis Commercial Appeal)

OKLAHOMA----impending executions

Oklahoma Gives John Grant New Execution Date of October 28, 2021

John Marion Grant is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm local time on Thursday, October 28, 2021, at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma. 60-year-old John is sentenced to death for murdering of Gay Carter at the Dick Conner Correctional Facility near Hominy, Oklahoma, on November 13, 1998. John spent the last 21 years on Oklahoma’s death row. John is one of nine children and his father left home before John was born. Although his mother had other children, John lacked a positive male role model during his childhood. His mother struggled to provide for her family and, for a while, they lived in a shack that had no indoor plumbing. John first left home at the ago of 12, and began stealing and getting into trouble with the police as a teenager. His family alleges that the items he stole were necessities for the younger children. John is described as a “sweet,” “loving,” “quiet,” “sensitive,” and “gentle” child while growing up. He is also described as showing concern for his brothers and sisters and their children. When he was 17, John received a sentence of one year in an adult prison.

In 1980, John Grant received a sentence totaling 130 years in prison for 4 separate armed robberies. While in the Dick Conner Correctional Facility, Grant was working in the prison kitchen, along with Gay Carter. Gay was a Department of Corrections employee serving as the food service supervisor. After fighting with other inmates, Grant lost his job working in the kitchen and threatened Gay.

On November 12 and 13, 1998, Grant argued with Gay over his breakfast tray, threatening Gay on both days. On November 13, Grant was seen by fellow inmates loitering near a storage closet adjacent to the main dining area. As Gay returned to the main dining area, she was pulled by Grant into a mop closet. Grant held her mouth shut and stabbed her 16 times with a “shank,” similar to a sharpened screwdriver. One of the stab wounds was to Gay’s aorta artery, causing rapid blood loss and death.

Grant attempted to flee but stabbed himself when he was cornered. A special team of correctional officers subdued Grant with an electrical shock device.

John Grant had previous execution dates in 2014 and 2015. Those executions received stays for differing reasons and the issues leading to the stays have been resolved, allowing Oklahoma to pursue a new execution date for John.

John asked for clemency from the Oklahoma Pardons and Parole Board. They denied recommending clemency by a vote of 3-2.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Gay Carter. Please pray for strength for the family of John Grant. Pray that if John is innocent, lacks the mental competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, evidence will be presented before his execution. Please pray that John may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)

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

As 1st execution looms, lawsuit filed to expose secrets about the death penalty

A new lawsuit has been filed to seek the records about the drugs that Oklahoma plans to use to execute a half-dozen inmates over the next few months.

Drug mix-ups a few years ago led to a suspension of executions in the state.

State officials announced the 3-drug cocktail they plan to use to restart executions a year and a half ago.

Fred Hodara is suing the Department of Corrections to get answers to questions such as who sold Oklahoma the drugs, how much did the state pay for them, and how much of the drugs the state has.

“Seven individuals are scheduled to die by lethal injection,” said Hodara. “That’s why this is so timely and so gravely important.”

Hodara’s lawyer, Brette Peña, shared the open records requests they have filed over the years to get these details. The DOC has told them these are not responsive documents or have said they can’t or don’t have to be disclosed.

The lawsuit says that quote “defies belief.”

Peña said, "Hey, you've said that you've improved all of these things, show us the documents, show us where you got the drugs from, how many drugs you have, what types they are, just all the information that they should have, that they say they have."

Back in 2018, the state planned to switch to a different execution method because they couldn’t find the drugs. Shortly after, the state reversed course and said they found the drugs.

The DOC declined to comment today, stating they don’t comment on pending litigation.

The 1st execution is scheduled for Oct. 21, 2021.

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

Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones files clemency petition ahead of hearing

Oklahoma’s high-profile death row inmate Julius Jones on Friday filed a petition for clemency with the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.

An execution date has been set for Nov. 18 for Jones, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1999 killing of Edmond businessman Paul Howell.

Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board had voted to commute Jones’ death sentence. Gov. Kevin Stitt then said that he will not make a decision on Jones’ case until after his clemency hearing, saying that a clemency hearing is the "appropriate venue" for death penalty cases.

As an execution date was set for Jones, it triggered formal clemency proceedings under Oklahoma law, according to a news release from Jones’s defense team.

Jones’s attorney, Amanda Bass, said in the news release that, “We hope the additional evidence presented in these clemency proceedings will reinforce the Board’s initial vote to recommend commuting Julius’s death sentence and that Governor Stitt will exercise his authority to ensure Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man.”

Jones’ clemency hearing is set to begin at 9 a.m. on Oct. 26.

There have been documentaries, petitions, a Justice for Julius campaign, which is backed by big-name celebrities and athletes, and more. Howell’s family has also started a campaign to prove that Jones is guilty of Howell’s death.

(source for both: KOCO news)

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

Julius Jones files last-minute bid to avoid execution in Oklahoma----If the appeal is unsuccessful, Jones will be executed in November

Julius Jones, a death row inmate who has been fighting what he says is a wrongful murder conviction for the last two decades, made a final written appeal to Oklahoma authorities on Friday ahead of his scheduled November execution.

The police investigation and subsequent prosecution that put him behind bars was “fundamentally flawed,” according to a clemency petition sent to Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt and the state Pardon and Parole Board, which voted last month to recommend commuting Jones’s sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

“We hope the additional evidence presented in these clemency proceedings will reinforce the Board’s initial vote to recommend commuting Julius’s death sentence and that Governor Stitt will exercise his authority to ensure Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man,” Amanda Bass, Jones’s attorney, said in a statement accompanying the petition.

Governor Stitt has said he won’t render a final decision in this appeal until after Jones’s clemency hearing on 26 October. If the governor declines to intervene in the case, Jones has exhausted his legal remedies and will be executed on 18 November, following a September decision from an Oklahoma appeals court.

The entire process that led up to young Black man’s conviction for the sensational 1999 murder of white Oklahoma City businessman Paul Howell was flawed, Jones’s attorneys argue, from a police investigation that quickly deemed him a suspect to a trial process tarred as racially biased and prosecutorially improper.

“Because of fundamental breakdowns in the system tasked with deciding Julius’s guilt, the jurors who voted to convict and sentence Julius to die did so based on a fundamentally flawed and incomplete record that left them without powerful evidence of Julius’s innocence,” the petition reads. “Had that evidence been presented, we know from the sworn affidavits of three jurors who served on Julius’s jury that it could have made the critical difference.”

The public defenders representing Jones now argue the original jury didn’t hear key evidence. Key issues, they suggest, include that the jury was unaware the state’s case was built on evidence from 2 men with criminal histories and a record of being informants for Oklahoma police, who were promised or expected benefits for their testimony.

The petition also argues the incompetent team of original public defenders for Jones didn’t call a single witness in his defence, including family members who said Jones was at home at the time of the murder, or notify jurors that an inmate said he had heard a different man named Chris Jordan confess to the crime, which he denies.

One jury member came forward after the trial and said that a colleague had made racist remarks about the case, saying authorities “need to take this n***** and shoot him, and take him and bury him underneath the jail,” but was still allowed to vote on the final conviction.

After languishing for years, Jones’s case has in recent years inspired a “Justice for Julius” movement, and a growing number of community members, activists, and Hollywood figures Kim Kardashian and actress Viola Davis, who produced a documentary about his story, have called for his released.

“People should care because we’re living in the era of George Floyd,” Cece Jones-Davis, a leader of the Justice for Julius movement, told The Independent. “We saw in horror what happened to that man, how the system had its knee on George Floyd’s neck. We see now that the system has its knee on another man’s neck.”

Mr Howell’s family, as a well as a host of current and former Oklahoma law enforcement officials, maintain that Jones is the correct person to be convicted of the crime, pointing to factors like Jones’s DNA found on a bandanna wrapped around the murder weapon, as well as his previous criminal background.

They also resent the growing celebrity and media attention paid to the case.

“These celebrities and influencers don’t bother to reach out to us about it. I think the thing that is most frustrating about all this is you influence your followers. If you’re a celebrity, an influencer, an athlete, you have a lot of followers who look up to you,” Rachel Howell, Paul’s daughter, told Oklahoma’s KFOR, the day Julius was recommended for commutation. “I think the only thing I want these celebrities to know is to think about the victim’s family. Take the time to at least look at both sides. You don’t have all the information.”

“This is David versus Goliath,” Clayton Howell, Paul Howell’s nephew, added.

They said they were “devastated” by the commutation recommendation, calling the legal process “in no way fair.”

If the clemency process isn’t successful, Jones will be among the first men executed by the state of Oklahoma, after a 6-year pause following a series of botched executions.

(source: theindependent.co.uk)

USA:

Death penalty can express society’s outrage – but biases often taint the verdict

Amelia Wirts--Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Washington

Disclosure statement

Amelia Wirts received funding from the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston College from 2012-2017 and 2018-2020. She has been a member of the National Lawyers Guild since 2015. She worked as an unpaid intern for Lawyers For Civil Rights in 2015. In the summer of 2016, she was the Napolitano Summer Fellow at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, funded by the Massachusetts Bar Association. She worked as an intern for a federal judge in the Federal Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston, where Tsarnaev's initial trial was held, approximately 60 days after the trial ended. She did not intern for the judge who presided over Tsarnaev's trial.

In its hearing on Oct. 13, 2021, the Supreme Court appeared to favor reinstating the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was found guilty of planting homemade bombs, with the help of his brother, Tamerlan, along the crowded Boston Marathon route on April 15, 2013. The bombs killed 3 people and injured 260.

As the brothers evaded police, they killed a police officer and injured many others. In attempting to escape, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev accidentally killed his brother by running him over with a vehicle.

Prosecutors brought the case to the Supreme Court after the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the grounds that the prospective jurors were not screened sufficiently about their exposure to media coverage of the bombing, and the jurors were not given evidence of Tamerlan’s past crimes.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers wanted jurors to consider the influence of his older brother as a mitigating factor to lessen his sentences, and the evidence of Tamerlan’s past violence was a key part of that argument.

I study criminal law and punishment as a political institution, including how it must fit within the values of a liberal democracy to be justified. Tsarnaev’s case is complicated because of the immense harm he caused to so many people.

My research examines how punishment affects members of society beyond the criminals and their victims. One of the key ways that punishment has a broader social effect is its capacity to express strong moral condemnation of actions that violate the basic rights of members of society.

But punishment also expresses moral condemnation of the criminal. This is where the risk comes in because a strong negative attitude toward one individual can reinforce prejudicial stereotypes about racial and ethnic groups.

Punishment and collective condemnation

Joel Feinberg, one of the most influential philosophers of law in the 20th century, explained that punishment has an “expressive function.” By this, Feinberg meant that punishment expresses the idea that the government condemns the criminal action. Criminal conviction is not enough to express moral condemnation on its own, because punishment is necessary to show that criminal laws are more than empty words.

The capacity of punishment to send a message makes it useful for reinforcing a society’s values. In liberal democracies like the United States, the government represents members of society. Thus, punishment is one way that society expresses its values. Not only does the fact of punishment communicate that the society condemns an action, but also the severity of the sentence communicates how much it condemns the criminal act.

Feminist political theorist Jean Hampton explained that the expressive capacity of punishment is valuable because it allows society to convey solidarity with the victims of crime. When people commit crimes, Hampton argued, they put their own goals and interests above those of the people they harm in the

process. In cases of violent crime, this is especially true. Punishing Tsarnaev is a way of communicating that society values the lives of the victims. If the idea that punishment communicates solidarity with victims seems abstract, consider a case where a crime was inadequately punished. Brock Turner, a Stanford student who was found guilty of sexual assault of an unconscious female student, was sentenced to just 6 months in county jail, though he would only serve half that. Many people were outraged at the short sentence, given the nature of his crime and the strong evidence against him.

Stanford law professor Michele Dauber led a successful campaign to recall the sentencing judge, and when she won, she said, “"We voted that sexual violence, including campus sexual violence, must be taken seriously by our elected officials and by the justice system.”

The sentence was interpreted as a lack of solidarity with the victim and with all victims of sexual assault. The recall was a message to other judges that citizens wanted harsher punishments for rapists because harsher sentences would convey that the lives of victims of rape matter.

The capacity of punishment to communicate a society’s values is useful, but it can also reinforce negative attitudes toward the person who committed the crime – not just toward the criminal act itself.

In the Tsarnaev case, victims and strangers alike have moral reasons not only to condemn his criminal actions but also to condemn him. It would be understandable if people resented him or held other negative attitudes toward him, given the nature of his crime. When he is punished, the state is reinforcing and justifying those attitudes as legitimate.

Risks of racial bias

But the fact that punishment is an expression of negative attitudes makes it risky. To begin with, not all negative attitudes toward others are justified.

Implicitly or explicitly, one may dislike members of a racial group or ethnic minority, or associate negative stereotypes based on gender or sexual orientation. These sources of negative attitudes pose two kinds of risks given the expressive function of punishment. The first risk is that implicit or explicit racial biases will be confused for justified negative attitudes when a criminal defendant is prosecuted and punished. The second is that punishments themselves, even when justified, could reinforce existing implicit and explicit biases.

To understand how these two risks work, take the over-representation of Black Americans in the criminal legal system. Recent data shows that, even though incarceration rates for Black men are the lowest they have been since 1989, they are still 5.8 times more likely to be incarcerated than white men.

Black defendants are not only more likely to be sentenced to death than their white counterparts, but also, once sentenced, they are more likely to actually be executed than white death row inmates.

The 1st risk plays a role in the over-punishment of Black Americans because in many cases, police, prosecutors, judges and juries confuse their unjustified negative feelings based on race for appropriate feelings of resentment based on a defendant having committed a crime. Thus, if they have negative attitudes toward a defendant because of race, a jury may find guilt where there is none, or over-punish.

Social scientists talk about this phenomenon when they explain that implicit biases or unconscious negative attitudes affect criminal justice outcomes, particularly for Black Americans. Implicit biases are at least one factor in why Black Americans are given harsher sentences than white criminals who commit similar crimes.

The 2nd risk is more subtle. The message of punishment is that the criminal’s act is bad and so is the criminal. Seeing members of a marginalized racial or ethnic group punished could reinforce prejudicial negative attitudes.

Evidence of this second risk was recently demonstrated in a troubling study: The more white Americans learn that Black Americans are over-represented in the criminal justice system, the more they may seek increasingly punitive policies. Authors of the study linked this to pervasive implicit biases in which white Americans unconsciously associate Black faces with crime. Thus, punishing Black Americans strengthens an unjustifiable association between Blackness and criminality. This has a profound effect on the lives of all Black Americans, whether they ever commit a crime or not.

The risk of implicit biases

Tsarnaev is not Black. But he is Chechen, a majority-Muslim ethnic group from Eastern Europe.

In the United States, studies indicate that 1/2 to 2/3 of non-Muslim Americans hold anti-Muslim implicit biases. Legal scholar Khaled Beydoun explains that federal anti-terrorism projects since 9/11 have treated Muslims – and those assumed, based on their ethnicity, to be Muslim – as suspected terrorists based only on their perceived religion.

The growing implicit biases against Muslims and aggressive policing of Muslim communities already put American Muslims at risk of similar treatment in the criminal legal system as Black Americans.

These risks do not mean that the death penalty is never warranted or that it is not warranted in this case. But it does mean that policymakers and the public should take these risks into account when making laws and setting policies about punishing.

(source: The Conversation)

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Why Biden's team is pushing for a death penalty he won't execute

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked a smart question this week: Why is President Biden's Justice Department trying to revive the death penalty sentence for the Boston Marathon bomber when it apparently has no intention of actually executing him?

"I'm wondering what the government's end game is here," Barrett said during Wednesday's hearing on the case. "So the government has declared a moratorium on executions, but you're here defending his death sentences. And if you win, presumably, that means that he is relegated to living under the threat of a death sentence that the government doesn't plan to carry out. So I'm just having trouble following the point."

The government's response to Barrett suggested the moratorium is merely temporary — but that's unlikely, at least while Biden is in office. As Hot Air's Ed Morrissey reminds us, Biden campaigned last year on a promise to "eliminate the death penalty." And when Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the moratorium on federal executions in July, he cited concerns about racism and the "troubling number" of death row exonerations. There doesn't appear to be significant action on Capitol Hill to address those concerns, so the Biden administration seems to be content to shelve planned executions instead.

A more realistic answer to Barrett's question is that the Justice Department's default setting is to maximally assert the power and prerogatives of the president and the federal government, even if that means defending policies and decisions the president himself doesn't like or personally intend to implement. It's why a George W. Bush administration lawyer once publicly rationalized a hypothetical question about torturing the child of a terrorist, and it's why the Biden administration has defended many (but not all) of its predecessor's claims of "executive privilege" to hide information from the public.

Some of this is about power: No president wants to narrow the boundaries of executive authority. And some of it is about the Justice Department's culture — attorneys general of both parties have asserted their department's "duty to defend" acts of Congress, even when those measures are constitutionally dubious.

That leaves the Biden administration in the odd position of arguing for a death penalty it doesn't support and won't carry out. That's easier than doing the difficult work of persuading Congress to end the federal death penalty. But as Justice Barrett indicated, it leaves a lot of people — the bomber, the families of his many victims — in a cruel limbo.

(source: The Week)

SINGAPORE:

Death penalty to proceed for Singaporean who brought in 1 kilo of cannabis----The decision to proceed with the death penalty has been condemned by human rights group Amnesty International (AI) as a “callous decision.”

The appeal of Omar Yacob Bamadhaj, 41, against his conviction and death sentence for drug trafficking was dismissed by the Apex Court on Tuesday (Oct 12).

Bamadhaj, a Singaporean, was caught bringing in one kilo of cannabis into Singapore from Malaysia in 2018.

He was stopped at the border for a routine check on Jul 12, 2018, where police found 3 bundles of cannabis in the boot of his car.

His father, who was not charged over the incident, was driving the vehicle and was unaware of the presence of the cannabis.

At that time, Bamadhaj told police officers that the bundles were “plants for herbs” that had been placed in his bag by 2 acquaintances, known as Din and Latif, without his knowledge, CNA reported.

However, according to the prosecution, he had ordered the Class A drugs and had deliberately brought them into Singapore.

But Bamadhaj’s lawyer, Hassan Esa Almenoar, claims that there is reasonable doubt concerning his client’s intent to bring the drugs into Singapore, saying it is “difficult to conclude that he planned all this”.

Moreover, Bamadhaj also claims that he had been “coerced” into admission of guilt by officers of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), one of whom allegedly threw a pen at him and told him, If you refuse to admit to this, I will throw both you and your father to be hanged”.

Bamadhaj’s account of his arrest underwent some changes.

On the day he was arrested, he said Din and Latif offered him S$500 per bundle of cannabis brought into Singapore, and that because he was “desperate for money,” he overcame his initial hesitation and agreed to the deal.

Later, he changed his story to say that the 2 acquaintances put the bundles into his bag without his knowledge and that his “mind went blank” when the bundles were found by border officers.

In denying the appeal, the court said it was satisfied with how the trial judge examined Bamadhaj’s case.

The decision to proceed with the death penalty for Bamadhaj has been condemned by human rights group Amnesty International (AI) as a “callous decision.”

AI’s death penalty advisor, Chiara Sangiorgio, said “By dismissing Omar Yacob Bamadhaj’s appeal, the Singapore authorities have violated international safeguards and sentenced yet another person convicted of drug trafficking to death by hanging.

Singapore’s heavy reliance on draconian laws and policies have not only failed to tackle the use and availability of drugs, they also give zero effective protection from drug-related harm and instead facilitate a raft of human rights violations,” she added.

(source: theindependent.sg)

INDIA:

Death to Dr Subbiah murder accused: Hearing adjourned

When the matter came before Justice PN Prakash and Justice RN Manjula, the bench adjourned the matter for 3 weeks. The Additional Sessions Court, which passed the sentence on August 4, 2021, had submitted the verdict documents before the court and appealed to uphold the same.

It is a judicial procedure when a lower court awards a death sentence, the same needs to be confirmed by a high court based on the documents.

It may be recalled that Dr Subbiah was brutally attacked by a gang with weapons in broad daylight near a private hospital here at Raja Annamalaipuram, Chennai.

After 9 days, the doctor died without responding to the treatment. Police investigation revealed that the doctor was murdered in a family feud over a land dispute in his village of Anjugramam, Kanniyakumari.

After completing the trials, the additional sessions judge, IS Alli sentenced Ponnusamy, P Basil, P Boris, B William, James Satish Kumar, Murugan and Selva Prakash to double death penalty for offences under 302 and 20B of IPC. Also, the city court sentenced Mary Pushpam and Yesurajan to double life terms. Another accused named Iyyappan was left free as he turned approver.

(source: dtnext.in)

PAKISTAN:

Interactive play performed at prison for women and juveniles

An interactive play highlighting the plight of vulnerable prisoners and their family members was performed at the Central Prison and Correctional Facility for Women and Juveniles in Karachi as part of the Justice Project Pakistan’s (JPP) multifaceted campaign “This is (not) a Game”.

The play, which was watched by more than 150 prisoners, including women and juveniles currently incarcerated at the facility, follows the story of a woman trying to save her husband from the death penalty while navigating Pakistan’s flawed criminal justice system and making impossible decisions.

Should she compromise her children’s education to pay the legal fees? Should she relocate to protect her children? Developed by the JPP in collaboration with the Azad Theatre, the play has been performed at community spaces and educational institutes in Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad.

The final performance of the play was scheduled at the Central Prison and Correctional Facility in Karachi on Friday to mark the end of a 2-week long campaign to commemorate the 19th World Day Against the Death Penalty, which is observed on October 10 every year.

Inspector General of Prisons Kazi Nazir Ahmed said that hope can be found even in the unlikeliest of places and during the most unfathomable times.

“All of these prisoners have similar stories to tell. Their family members have to live through these impossible choices faced by the central female character in this play.

“For an optimist like me, as it was shown in the play, hope is always an option no matter what you are going through. I believe that such interactions between artistes and prisoners will encourage inmates to rebuild and reform their lives, and find their place in the world outside.”

JPP spokesperson Laiba Zainab said: “We wanted to bring this campaign to the most vulnerable of all — the prisoners — to show that art has the power to touch hearts and souls even within these 4 walls.

“For us and for these prisoners, it was a dialogue between reality and fiction, societal pressures and the determination to keep fighting for justice, and, ultimately, between economic disadvantages and self conviction.

“We are grateful to the IG prisons and his team for allowing us to stage this performance and interact with the actual victims of the patriarchal norms that plague our justice system.”

Based on this year’s World Day Against the Death Penalty theme — “Women and Death Penalty: Invisible Realities” — the campaign allows the audience to enact the perspective of this central female character, making them come face to face with the harsh realities of the lives of the family members of indigent defendants arrested for capital offences.

It engages different segments of society through various mediums, including street performances, radio shows, social media filters and a digital game.

“It was a challenge for us to take the performance to those who are the actual victims. But this has been a life-changing experience, and performing before prisoners has humanised us in many ways,” said the play’s writer and director Malik Aslam.

The cast of the play included Sarfaraz Ansari, Aliya Abbasi, Nadeem Abbas, Muhammad Naeem, Asiya Hameed and Imran Khan. Families of death-row defendants, particularly women, face tough and often traumatic experiences in a system that inherently discriminates against them.

Currently, there are almost 4,000 prisoners on death row, with thousands under trial awaiting sentences for offences that are punishable by death in the country.

(source: thenews.com.pk)

IRAN----executions

Afghan National Ali Omar Amrolelahi and Unknown Man Executed in Qom

Afghan national Ali Omar Amrolelahi and an unknown man sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, have been executed in Qom Central Prison. There are currently more than 10 Afghan nationals on death row for murder and drug-related charges in Qom Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, 2 men were executed on murder charges in Qom Central Prison on the morning of October 13. The identity of one of them has been established as Afghan national Ali Omar Amrolelahi and the identity of the 2nd man is unknown at the time of writing.

Informed sources told Iran Human Rights: “Ali Omar Amrolelahi was arrested for killing someone over honour issues 4 years ago and had been behind bars since.”

At the time of writing, their executions have not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

There are currently more than ten Afghan nationals on death row in Qom Central Prison. 3 have been sentenced to qisas for murder and the other 7 were sentenced to death on drug-related charges.

One of the men, Mazar-e-Sharif-native Abdol Yaghoub was 19 years old when he was arrested three years ago on charges of “killing the security guard of a company building” and sentenced to qisas.

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

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

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

Mohammad Latifi and Unknown Man Executed in Kermanshah

At least 2 prisoners sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder were executed in Kermanshah Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, 2 men were executed on murder charges on the morning of October 11. The identity of one of the men has been established as 23-year-old Mohammad Latifi.

The identity of the second executed man has not been established at the time of writing but he was an Islamabad native and was sentenced to qisas for murder. According to local sources, the number of people executed that day is likely to be higher.

At the time of writing, their executions have not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

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

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

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

Ebrahim Rakhshani Executed on Drug Charges in Qaen

Baluch Ebrahim Rakhshani who was sentenced to death on drug-related charges, has been executed in Qaen Prison. At least 85 prisoners, including a woman, have been executed on drug-related charges in Iranian prisons in 2021.

According to the Baluch Activists Campaign, a Baluch man was executed in Qaen Prison on the morning of October 11. His identity has been reported as Zabol-native, Ebrahim Rakhshani who was sentenced to death on drug-related charges.

Ebrahim Rakhshani was arrested and sentenced to death on drug-related charges around 3 years ago.

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

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, at least 25 people were executed on drug-related charges in 2020. However, at least 85 people have so far been executed on the same charge in 2021.

On May 3, IHR published a report on the death penalty in the first 4 months of 2021 expressing concern at the significant increase in the number of drug-related executions and continues to warn of the continuation of this trend.

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

Hossein Amiri, Hossein Shamsi, Ali Mokhtari and Yavar Dehzadeh Executed on Drug Charges in Isfahan

At least 4 men have been executed on drug-related charges in Isfahan Central Prison. At least 89 prisoners, including a woman, have been executed on drug-related charges in Iranian prisons in 2021.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, at least four men were executed on drug-related charges in Isfahan Central Prison on October 12. Their identities have been established as Isfahan-natives Hossein Amiri, Hossein Shamsi, Ali Mokhtari and Hashtroud-native Yavar Dehzadeh.

9 people are reported to have been executed at the prison that day but Iran Human Rights has not been able to verify the other five executions at the time of writing.

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

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, at least 25 people were executed on drug-related charges in 2020. However, at least 89 people have so far been executed on the same charge in 2021.

On May 3, IHR published a report on the death penalty in the first 4 months of 2021 expressing concern at the significant increase in the number of drug-related executions and continues to warn of the continuation of this trend.

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

Taleb Hojratpour at Imminent Risk of Execution in Sanandaj Central Prison----Prison officials have informed Taleb that he will be executed within the next week.

Taleb Hojratipour, sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, is scheduled to be executed in Sanandaj Central Prison within the next week.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, 33-year-old Taleb Hojratipour is at imminent risk of execution in Sanandaj Central Prison. He is from Bardeh Reshan village in Marivan and was sentenced to qisas for murder.

Prison officials have informed Taleb that he will be executed within the next week. He is a father of 2 and has been behind bars for the last 6 1/2 years.

According to informed sources, Taleb Hojratipour had “committed the murder with a hunting weapon during a dispute over farming land in his village” on 9 April 2014 and surrendered himself to the police after being on the run for a year. His death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court six months ago and subsequently sent for implementation.

Informed sources told Iran Human Rights: “Taleb Hojratipour said in his confessions that ‘I fired the gun, but I had no intentions of killing him and didn’t aim at his chest. I fired the gun in a state of anger but it was not intentional and was not directed at him. I will repeat that I didn’t kill him intentionally, I just wanted to scare him but unfortunately he was shot, until the day of my execution.’”

“Taleb’s family are living in dire and terribly sad conditions. His children have very difficult lives as they have no financial support. We ask the victim’s family to grant forgiveness,” the source added.

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

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

(source for all: iranhr.net)

NIGERIA:

2023: SDP wants death penalty for election riggers, kicks against zoning

The Social Democratic Party, SDP, has expressed deep anger at the propensity of political money bags to rig elections in the country, saying ahead of the 2023 general election, it has become imperative to advocate the death penalty for election riggers.

This was as the party kicked against zoning of the Delta State Governorship ticket to the Central Senatorial District, saying in a state like Delta with its political maturity and as home to eggheads, competence must trump zoning.

Chairman of the party in the state, Amb Oke Idawene who is also the Chairman, Forum of SDP State Chairmen, stated this in an interview with Vanguard.

He commended the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for its decision to deploy the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System BVAS in the September 11 state Assembly bye-election in Isoko South 1, Delta state, saying the technology helped to reduce incidences of multiple voting.

Idawene said the device was able to guarantee the credibility of voter accreditation by preventing incidents of multiple voting or the use of stolen Permanent Voter Cards PVCs to vote while the use of the incident form was eliminated.

Election rigging

On rigging, he said the problem is not with INEC but other stakeholders.

He said: “The problem we have right now is not INEC. It is the people. Somebody tried to snatch a ballot box in Isoko South and he was gunned down. I don’t like bloodshed, but that is the way to go. Ahead of 2023, the punishment for such electoral malfeasance should be death by hanging. Anybody rigging elections is an enemy of the people and must be so treated.

“With the BVAS, the votes were not adulterated. There was no rigging in that election. For the 1st time in Nigeria, I went for an election where until the morning of the elections, the collation officers were not known and the voting pattern was clear.

“To this end, I think we should give INEC all the support for electronic voting, electronic collation and transmission of results. It is only then we can get genuine leadership and see Nigeria tilting towards progressive tendencies. I want to call on the National Assembly to support this BVAS and other technologies used by INEC.”

On Zoning the 2023 presidency to the South and the Delta Governorship ticket to Delta Central, the SDP Chairman said; “SDP is not for zoning. We are for competence. It is time we stopped regional tendencies. Nigeria is one. No matter how you try, you cannot break us. Let us elect a leader who is a true Nigerian in body, soul, and spirit so that at the end of the day we can say we are going forward.

“SDP is anti-zoning. For the Southern leaders, if you want the presidency, I call on you to lobby. Power is not given for free. It is a collective responsibility. Leave your comfort zones and go to the North and explain why you should be given the opportunity to produce the next president. Apart from that, every Nigerian is qualified to run for president.

“In Delta State, the Central is claiming that it is their turn to produce the next governor. No. I am a Delta. I have the right to contest. If Delta Central wants to contest election and win, let them come out and convince us in the South and North why we should give you room to produce the next governor come 2023. Apart from that, do not claim it. It is not your right. You lobby for it. Power is not given for free”, he added.

(source: Vanguard News Nigeria)

GHANA:

Amnesty International Advocates For The Abolition Of The Death Penalty

Amnesty International (Ghana) has called on the State to abolish the death penalty in Ghana following the grave human rights violation it poses to individuals accused of crimes punishable by death in the constitution of Ghana.

The call was made at the headquarters of Amnesty International Ghana in a press briefing to mark the 19th World Day Against the Death Penalty (2021) on Tuesday, 12th October 2021 on the theme ‘Women and the Death Penalty, an invisible reality’.

Amnesty International raised a number of concerns about women on death row, arguing that their conditions in prison do not meet international standards. Both men and women have been reported to be in poor conditions in typically overcrowded prisons in addition to poor sanitary facilities, isolation, and lack of access to medical care and to recreational and educational opportunities available to other prisoners.

According to the Director of Amnesty International Ghana, Mr. Frank Doyi, there is currently no evidence that points to the fat that the death penalty deters crime. Research has shown that in countries where the death penalty is used, such as the United State of America, crime rates are still high. He is of the view that if human life is a fundamental human right, and killing is wrong, then the state must not be a party to taking its citizens’ lives.

Research has also shown that the death penalty targets the poor. The United Nations Human Rights has revealed that people living in poverty risk being victims because they are easy targets for the police and cannot afford a lawyer. This means that they are unable to produce expert evidence beyond their means and are unable to appeal judgements. Many of these poor people also are unable to afford bails, a situation that keeps them in police custody so that they are unable to prepare adequately for an effective defence, the United Nations Human Rights has said.

In the light of these inequalities, Amnesty international has called on the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Ghana, Hon. Godfred Yeboah Dame to put into effect the President’s directive to initiate an amendment process of the criminal and other Offences Act-1960 (Act 29) to abolish the death penalty for most offences in Ghana.

Background

The death penalty in Ghana is imposed as a mandatory punishment for murder, meaning that judges are left with no alternatives in sentencing and do not have the option of assessing the context in which the crime was committed or the background of the defendants at sentencing. This means that many who have been sentenced to death, as research has shown, committed the ‘crimes’ in self-defence, sometimes under prolonged torture at the hands of their victims and most times, sensed grave threats against their own lives.

Ghana carried the last execution in 1993 and has since not executed anyone on the death row. However, judges continue to sentence people to death, mainly because there is no alternative sentence for crimes considered as murder under the laws of Ghana. As has already been shown, judges are not allowed to assess the merits of a murder case to fully understand the circumstances under which the crime was committed, meaning that once someone has lost a life at one’s hand, the death penalty must be applied.

There are currently more than 150 people on the death row and the aim of Amnesty International Ghana is to see the removal of the Death Penalty from the constitution and other legislations in Ghana.

Amnesty international Ghana has also called on the Parliament of Ghana to support and pass the Private Member Bill that is currently before it (introduced by Hon. Francis Xavier Sosu) to remove the death penalty from the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) and replace it with other sentences such as life imprisonment.

(source: Peacefmonline.com)

ZAMBIA:

Death penalty violates the right to life, says Mwandenga

HUMAN Rights Commission chairperson Mudford Mwandenga says sustainable way of eliminating all forms of discrimination in matters relating to capital offences is to completely abolish the death penalty.

Speaking during the commemoration of the World Day against the Death Penalty held at Radisson Blu hotel in Lusaka yesterday, Mwandenga said this year’s theme seeks to expose the inherent discriminatory nature of the death penalty against vulnerable and marginalised groupings due to societal prejudices and stigmatisation that may find its way into the criminal justice system.

This year’s theme is “Women and the death penalty, an invisible reality”.

He said the day is observed every October 10 to raise global awareness on the continued adverse impact of the death penalty on a wide range of human rights and the need to abolish it.

Mwandenga said this year’s theme was aimed at highlighting the plight of women who risk being sentenced to death, “who have been sentenced to death, who have been executed, and to those who have had their death sentences commuted or pardoned or those that have been exonerated”.

He said the Commission had over the years been engaging both duty bearers and rights holders with a view of supporting efforts towards the abolition of the death penalty in Zambia.

Mwandenga said death penalty violates the right to life.

He said death penalty is also a torturous, cruel, inhuman or degrading way of treating or punishing of a human being.

“I wish to hasten to state that in addition to grave violation of human rights that the death penalty causes, the Commission’s opposition to the death penalty is also based on the ground-breaking global research that the death penalty does not deter commission of atrocious crimes more than life sentences,” he said. “Therefore, we are not saying that those found guilty of committing capital offences should go scot-free, but that they should be sentenced to life imprisonment, which has globally been considered to be adequate punishment for capital offences.”

Mwandenga added that the Commission is also opposed to the death penalty because it is an absolute, irreversible, irreparable and terminal form of punishment.

He noted that once a death penalty is carried out, life lost can never be restored even if it was later discovered that the person executed was innocent.

“However, the Commission, like other stakeholders is encouraged that for the past 24 years, there has been no single person that has been executed by the Government of the Republic of Zambia,” Mwandenga said. “This is because since 1997 when the last executions took place, no Republican president has signed a death warrant to authorise execution of inmates convicted of capital offences that attract death sentence in Zambia, which are murder, treason and aggravated robbery. This demonstrates the firm belief at a highest political leadership that life is too sacred to be taken away by any means and by any individual or institution.”

He called upon the new dawn administration to maintain Zambia’s executive position of a moratorium on the death penalty.

Mwandenga noted that Zambia has in practice suspended the implementation of the death penalty for the past 24 years.

He said at international level, a country that has not carried out executions for 10 years and above is considered to have abolished the death penalty in practice.

“As such, Zambia is considered as a death penalty de facto abolitionist country because she has not carried out executions for more than two decades so far,” Mwandenga said. “This is a great milestone towards the abolition of the death penalty. It will be a tragedy of national and international monumental magnitude for Zambia to resume executions of inmates sentenced to death after achieving such a milestone towards enhancing the protection of the right to life.”

Mwandenga urged that Zambia must ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which abolishes the death penalty.

He also said the Commission was fully aware that the provision of the law that permits death sentence is entrenched under Article 12 of the Bill of Rights which requires holding of a national referendum to amend it.

“However, as a demonstration of good faith efforts and commitment to abolishing the death penalty, the Commission is urging the government to facilitate the repealing of the sections of the penal code Act, Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia, and the criminal procedure code Act, Chapter 88 of the Laws of Zambia that give effect to death penalty as that is within the powers of the executive and legislative wings of government,” said Mwandenga.

And justice minister Mulambo Haimbe said the government will endeavour to facilitate review of various legal instruments, including broadening the Bill of Rights to include third generational rights to enhance legal guarantees on protecting human rights.

Haimbe said the global movement towards abolishing the death penalty is very clear.

He noted that statistics show that by the end of the year 2020, out of the 195 countries in the world, at least 107 had abolished the death penalty for all crimes, while 54 still retained it.

Haimbe said 27 countries including Zambia had abolished death penalty in practice, while seven others still retained it for special crimes such as war crimes.

He noted that in Sub-Saharan Africa, as at the end of 2020, at least 21 countries had abolished the death penalty.

Haimbe added that the commitment of the government on protecting the right to life is guaranteed.

“As a government, we will provide clear political leadership, through a consultative process towards matching global trends while enhancing public security and safety in the country,” he said. “It is, therefore, the responsibility of everyone to support the government’s commitment by sensitising the general members of the public and engaging key stakeholders to improve understanding and appreciation of the need to protect the right to life.”

Haimbe said commutation of death sentences to life imprisonment and pardoning of inmates serving various sentences, including death, would continue without any form of discrimination.

“The new dawn administration will keep and maintain an open-door policy on the question of abolishing the death penalty. It will continue seeking expert advice and monitoring cultural trends while providing national leadership on the subject-matter,” he said. “The government will also take time to study the prevailing regional and international movements towards abolition of the death penalty to inform the national decision.”

Haimbe called upon the Human Rights Commission, faith-based organisations, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to freely engage the government to come up with a decision that would have legitimacy and broad-based consensus.

“It is my sincere belief that through this process, the government will come up with an official decision on the question of abolition of the death penalty in the not too distant future,” Haimbe said.

He said the government would always treasure stakeholders’ contribution to the governance of the country for the common good.

(source:themastonline.com)

OCTOBER 15, 2021:

ALABAMA:

How COVID-19 affected death row prisoners ahead of Alabama execution scheduled this month

This month, Alabama plans to carry out its 1st execution since the COVID-19 pandemic spread last year.

Willie B. Smith, scheduled to be executed on Oct. 21, was convicted in 1991 of the kidnapping and shooting death of 22-year-old Sharma Ruth Johnson. He was sentenced by a 10-2 jury to death.

The case indicates states across the country may be resuming executions under the death penalty. Over the past year, a majority of states either stayed or postponed executions that had been scheduled to occur during the pandemic, according to the American Bar Association.

But after more than a year of COVID-19, despite the virus still lingering, corrections appears to be moving away from its slowdown of executions.

In Smith's case, counsel attempted to show executions could be a potential COVID-19 "super-spreader" event. In other states, evidence suggests this risk might be reasonably concerning.

The federal government, on the other hand, has been executing death row inmates throughout the pandemic. The ABA said in an October report last year that federal corrections began resuming executions for the first time in 17 years in the summer of 2020.

Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union show that the federal government’s choice to bring hundreds of people to the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, to carry out five executions in July and August in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic likely caused a COVID-19 outbreak that killed 3 and hospitalized others, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Many say the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks in correctional facilities is even more dangerous because social distancing and sanitation are harder to maintain, and those on death row are often older and thus more vulnerable to coronavirus complications.

Consider: Executions gather both spectators and authorities. Corrections personnel, lawyers, family members of the victims and defendants, spiritual advisers and media witness an execution in an enclosed space, often without the possibility of adequate social distancing.

Victim: Who was Sharma Ruth Johnson? What we know about the murder of a 22-year-old Alabama woman in 1991.

An Oct. 5 report from the Alabama Department of Corrections said four inmates at Holman Correctional Facility in Alabama, where Smith is being held, tested positive for COVID-19 the week before.

Alabama's altered execution protocol initially required Smith to wear a face mask during the execution, the Advertiser reported, which his attorneys argued would impede required "consciousness checks," when a corrections officer in the chamber stimulates an inmate to ensure he is unconscious after the first execution drug.

After Smith filed a stay motion, Alabama agreed to remove Smith's face mask once he is strapped to the gurney, and to allow the officer in the room to remove his own face mask if he feels it necessary to perform the consciousness checks.

With some states modifying protocols, others have canceled or at least delayed executions.

A Texas county trial court judge withdrew the death warrant for one individual, citing “the current COVID-19 conditions in Texas” in September 2020.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Georgia claimed to shelf its execution proceedings, at least temporarily, in light of court procedures in general being upended by the pandemic.

Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Tennessee, Ohio, California and others also delayed their scheduled executions or death row court proceedings for COVID-19 reasons.

On a macro scale, the population of U.S. death row fell 3.4% from October 2019 to September 2020, according to last fall's death-row census by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)

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Man convicted of killing 5 in New Market receives death penalty

Christopher Henderson has received the death penalty for the murder of 5 family members in 2015.

THE SENTENCING BEGINS

Over the summer, Henderson was convicted on more than a dozen capital murder charges for killing his pregnant wife, her mother and two children. On July 6, the same jury recommended the death penalty to the court.

Henderson has been held without bond until today’s hearing where the judge had the opportunity to break from the jury’s recommendation and decide to sentence Henderson to life in prison.

Christopher Henderson’s accomplice, Rhonda Carlson, accepted a plea deal in the case on July 15.

“It’s unspeakable what he did in this case, and he absolutely deserves what’s coming,” says Tim Gann with the Madison County District Attorney’s Office.

Gann says this is the third death penalty handed down in Madison County in the last 11 years. He says the crime was so heinous it will stay with the community forever.

“There’s no way this family is ever going to be made right. This is all we can do on earth to get earthly justice is this penalty. That’s it,” Gann said.

Henderson didn’t act alone, his other wife Rhonda Carlson took a plea deal for her role in the crime.

“Rhonda was very much a part of this from start to finish. She was a part of the planning. She was a part of the operation. But there is no blood on Rhonda’s hands. She did not take a knife and cut a baby out of the womb. That’s not who she is. She’s going to do life without. It’s death by prison for her,” Gann said.

But Defense Attorney Bruce Gardner says Carlson is just as guilty. Gardner asked the judge to also give Henderson life without parole, because the jury was not unanimous.

“Alabama is unique in allowing a vote of 10-2 to take somebody’s life. I personally disdain the death penalty. It’s just a barbaric institution in my view,” Gardner said.

We learned Thursday that Henderson almost lost his life- through COVID-19.

“He was in the jail sick for 24 days before he was admitted and finally taking to the hospital. He almost died. And was in ICU for almost two days. One of his cellmates in fact died,” Gardner said.

KELLY SMALLWOOD ADDRESSES THE COURT

At 8:40 a.m. on Thursday, the defense filed a motion to prohibit the death penalty since the July recommendation was not anonymous. During the 9 a.m. hearing, the only state witness to address the court was Kelly Smallwood. Smallwood’s son Eli was one of the five victims in 2015. Kelly’s sister was Henderson’s then 9-month pregnant wife Kristen.

“This has affected me in many ways,” said Kelly. “I lost my mother and my best friend. She was the one I could talk to about anything. I lost my sister Kristen. She loved especially when it came to her son and her unborn daughter Lauren.”

Kelly said if Kristen loved you, “you were loved fiercely.”

“Eli was my whole heart. I had to find a new way to get through each day without him. I never got to hear him say mommy or have his first day of school - graduate, get married, or take care of me when I get old.”

Kelly ended her address by saying she has lost the fear of death.

“I know where my family is...I know I will be reunited with my family and what a glorious day that will be.”

THE STATE’S TAKE ON THE DEATH PENALTY

State Attorney Tim Gann detailed how difficult a death penalty decision can be for all involved.

“I just want the court to know that we take the responsibility of seeking the death penalty very seriously,” said Gann.

“When we sat down and looked at this case, it was the easiest decision we have ever made to seek the death penalty. There is no question in my mind that he deserves the ultimate penalty.”

THE DEFENSE ARGUES FOR LIFE IN PRISON

Defense Attorney Bruce Gardner did not call any witnesses to address the court. Instead, Gardner pushed for life in prison instead of the death penalty since the jury’s recommendation was not unanimous back in July.

“This man has no criminal history. With respect to where the death penalty is headed...in every other jurisdiction, this man lives.”

Gardner continued, “someday I predict it will be that way, it will require a unanimous jury. Maybe this is the case that will do that. But we’ll find out.”

CHRISTOPHER HENDERSON SPEAKS

Henderson issued the final remarks to the court.

“First of all, I’d like to give my deepest apologies,” started Henderson. “This is an event that should have never happened.”

“I would also like to apologize to my mom and my daughter. Mom...you’ve aged 20 years in such a short time. And I know it’s hard on you.”

“Christie...I know I wasn’t there for you in your high school years. I’m really sorry.”

Henderson said all of his comments come from the heart.

“I laid in bed with COVID the past month and I tore them up because this is something you can’t put on paper.”

He also stated he believed the death penalty to be unconstitutional.

“They pulled the medicine off the market that they used.”

His last comment was on the subject of Rhonda Carlson.

“There’s a lot of questions not asked about Rhonda Carlson. She’s a very vicious person. I can attest to that.”

THE SENTENCE IS REVEALED

Shortly before 9:30 a.m. on October 14, Judge Chris Comer sentenced Christopher Henderson to the penalty of death.

“Mr. Henderson...may God have mercy on your soul,” said Judge Comer. “May God provide peace to the families of this tragedy.”

PREVIOUS INTERVIEW WITH FAMILY MEMBERS

Kristen Henderson’s brother, Keith Smallwood, said his family members who were killed, were good people.

“These were people that were happy to be alive and part of a strong family that we all loved each other so it’s been hard but it’s also been - we’ve been resolute because we know where they are and we know they’re smiling,” said Smallwood.

Kristen’s sister, Kelly Smallwood Sokolowski, lost her own child to Henderson. That’s the 14-month-old victim Eli.

“Eli...the light of my life. My one and only child. But I did have a dream. My daddy passed away in September of last year and I had a dream and my daddy was holding Eli in that dream. I know that I will see them again that’s one thing that was taken away from me that I’m thankful for. I’m not scared of death anymore because I know what’s waiting on me,” said Sokolowski.

Smallwood shares what it was like facing Henderson in court.

“I don’t know whether he cares or whether it matters to him, probably not. But it does to me, to let him know I’m not going anywhere,” said Smallwood.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

“The facts of this case were tough from the outset, I’ve known that for the last 6 years,” said Henderson’s defense attorney Bruce Gardner.

Overwhelming evidence that led to conviction includes Henderson’s phone search history, body camera footage, and surveillance video that places Henderson and the other suspect in this case, Rhonda Carlson, at the crime scene.

In Carlson’s plea deal from the state, she agreed to testify against Henderson, taking the death penalty off the table for her. Carlson admitted to helping plan the murders but denies actual involvement in the killings.

(source: WAFF news)

OHIO:

Ohio advocates observe Death Penalty Abolition Week

Ohioans across religious traditions have come together as one voice this week to speak out against capital punishment.

Dozens of faith communities participated in vigils, prayer services, and virtual conversations during Death Penalty Abolition Week, which comes to a close Sunday with a virtual worship service, entitled, "Restorative Love, Redemptive Grace."

Rev. Sharon Risher, a death penalty abolitionist, will share the story of her path to forgiveness after her mother was among nine people gunned down in the 2015 Charleston, S.C., church shooting.

"That horrific event that killed my mother made me really delve into my soul," Risher recounted. "And I came out understanding that I could not condone the death penalty. Because I understand with my faith that God is restorative and redemptive."

There is no cost to attend Sunday's virtual service. It will also feature Christian author and activist Shane Claiborne.

Risher explained her faith helped turn her trauma into activism and eventually forgive the shooter, who is currently awaiting execution at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

"People of faith can sometimes go through the most horrific things," Risher noted. "But because of their faith, they could get to a point of forgiveness, which then leads to healing."

Oct. 19 marks 40 years since Ohio enacted its current death-penalty statute.

Rev. Jack Sullivan, Jr., executive director of the Ohio Council of Churches, said there is strong bipartisan support behind Senate Bill 103 and House Bill 183, which would abolish it.

"No one's rejecting accountability as being an important component in dealing with people who have hurt us or angered us the most," Sullivan pointed out. "But the sponsored homicide of those people is immoral, and it's illogical, and it's just wrong."

Sullivan, whose sister was murdered, thinks victims' families would be better served by redirecting money used for capital cases toward supportive services to help with their healing.

"Executions do not assist in dealing with grief," Sullivan asserted. "They do not give us wholeness or closure. They just continue the cycle of death. And co-victims need more than that. They need the state to invest in their wellbeing and their movement forward, and their restoration."

(source: Ohio News Connection)

OKLAHOMA:

Death Row Inmate 3rd In Line For Execution Files Lawsuit To Be Removed From Line-Up

The Oklahoma City man currently 3rd in line to be executed on the state’s death row has filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to remove him from the line-up.

It’s a request Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said may be granted.

Bigler Stouffer was convicted in the 1985 murder of Putnam City school teacher Linda Reaves and sentenced to death the same year.

In a lawsuit filed in the Western District of Oklahoma, attorneys for Stouffer argue he never received an opportunity to challenge the state’s execution protocol or select an alternative method as did other death row inmates involved in the federal lawsuit Glossip v. Chandler.

The Stouffer’s lawsuit filed on Monday argues he was not allowed to join the other inmates in the Richard Glossip case.

Stouffer’s attorney, Gregory Laird, said he’s unsure why Stouffer was not allowed to join the inmates in the Glossip case.

According to the lawsuit, Stouffer received a response stating, “Unfortunately, we will not be able to assist with your matters but wish you the best of luck.”

As part of the pending Glossip litigation challenging the state’s execution protocol, U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot instructed the plaintiffs to select an alternative execution method.

6 inmates involved in the Glossip lawsuit did not respond, causing Friot to allow their execution to be scheduled by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The case against the execution protocols was allowed to proceed for the inmates who did respond to the method questionnaire.

Stouffer’s attorney argues since he was not allowed to join the lawsuit, he never received an opportunity to challenge the execution protocols as the inmates who responded to the questionnaire did.

Instead, Laird argued he was lumped in the inmates who did not respond despite never having the choice.

“He never had his day in court,” Laird said.

“It’s possible, and I’m sure he will seek a stay if his execution,” O’Connor said. “We will just have to see how the federal court handles that.”

O’Connor said Stouffer’s 36 years of appeals since his original 1985 conviction is a sign the justice system isn’t working properly.

“Honestly, 36 years of appeals. I think it’s more determinative upon the courts giving a thorough review, the court of criminal appeals, giving a thorough review of the evidence and the law that were the basis of the conviction, and then the appellate courts working through their calendars etc.,” O’Connor said.

“But it sure seems like 36 years, that’s certainly the longest I’ve ever heard of,” he said.

Laird said Stouffer maintains his innocence “100%,” arguing the state’s DNA evidence in the case doesn’t match the state’s theory of events.

His execution date is schedule for December 9, 2021; however, O’Connor said that may not happen.

(source: newson6.com)

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Jabee, Justice for Julius campaign director announce plans to fast as Julius Jones' execution date nears

Several major supporters of Julius Jones will fast to show solidarity while he’s placed on deathwatch, a period of strict supervision of an offender on death row, Friday.

On Sept. 20, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set Jones' execution date for Nov. 18. The state's Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 to recommend commuting Jones' sentence from the death penalty to life in prison with the possibility of parole on Sept. 13.

Gov. Kevin Stitt rejected the board's decision, citing his belief that a clemency hearing, which pardons the convicted person, is necessary rather than a commutation hearing, which lessens the sentence. Only four death row inmates have received clemency in Oklahoma’s history. Jones’ clemency hearing is now set for Oct. 26.

Jabee Williams, a supporter of the Justice for Julius movement and an Oklahoma City rapper, said fasting was an idea that would allow him to sacrifice in solidarity with Jones and his family.

“When I realized he was going on deathwatch, I just said ‘We need to be on deathwatch too,’” Williams said. “That's just kind of how I started — just thinking about how alone he's going to feel and he's going to be. And I was just like, ‘Man, I can't let him go to that alone. He needs to know people are out here and right there with him.’”

Williams said he’ll fast for the entirety of the time Jones is on deathwatch. He plans to give up sugar, alcohol and most things he enjoys, as well as taking time each day to meditate and pray for Jones.

Other community members are also participating in acts of support for Jones on Friday. The African and African American Studies department will hold a Freedom Vigil for Julius Jones at noon on the South Oval to show further support for Jones. Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, the Justice for Julius campaign director, said she will also join Williams in his fast by cutting out all food for the first day of deathwatch.

“The fact that the state is insistent at this point on killing him, and the fact that the deathwatch starts a grim process towards the execution chamber –– we are obviously in a very serious stage,” Jones-Davis said. “We’re standing in solidarity, and doing the least we can do by giving up something that is … special to us to do our part to empathize with what is going on with him … and pray with his family.”

(source: Taylor Jones, OU Daily)

USA:

Supreme Court Poised to Put Boston Marathon Bomber Back on Death Row

In a legal marathon running alongside the real Boston Marathon, the Supreme Court heard oral argument this week about whether to re-instate the on-again, off-again death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, for his role in planting the deadly bombs near the 2013 Marathon finish line.

In 2015, a federal jury sentenced Tsarnaev to death. But in 2020, a federal appeals court threw out the sentence. The court upheld the jury’s finding of guilt but found that the death penalty phase was marred by two fatal errors.

The first was the failure of the trial judge to rigorously examine prospective jurors for exposure to pretrial publicity. The 2nd was wrongly excluding relevant evidence that would have helped Tsarnaev show there were mitigating circumstances sufficient to spare his life.

To no one’s surprise, a majority of the Supreme Court seems poised to put Tsarnaev’s death sentence back in place. More surprising is the position of the Biden administration. Although the Justice Department has declared a moratorium on all federal executions and opposes capital punishment, it nonetheless argued to the Court that they should put Tsarnaev back on death row.

Justice Barrett cut to the chase by asking what the point was of re-instating Tsarnaev’s death sentence, since the government was committed to never executing him. Eric Feigin, Deputy Solicitor General, gave a boilerplate answer about feeling obligated to show respect for the jury verdict. He avoided saying what the Biden administration would do if the Supreme Court upheld the court of appeals order of a new death penalty trial. The Justice Department would then have to decide whether, against its stated position, it would argue for execution.

Of the 2 reasons the appeals court gave for tossing out Tsarnaev’s death sentence, the justices asked more questions about the mitigating circumstance issue. During the death penalty phase, a defendant has a constitutional right to present any evidence of mitigating circumstances. Tsarnaev had only one strong mitigating argument to make to the jury—that he was not the lead actor but just a weak younger brother.

To buttress that argument, Tsarnaev sought to introduce evidence that Tamerlan, the older brother, was involved in carrying out, as a prior act of jihad, an unsolved robbery and triple homicide in 2011 in Waltham, against three drug dealers. The trial judge refused to allow this evidence in, finding that the allegations that Tamerlan was responsible for the Waltham murders were merely speculative and that the jury would be confused by getting into a wholly separate event.

But, as Justice Kagan pointed out, it is the jury’s job, not the judge’s, to weigh the strength of evidence and to decide whether it is credible. Justice Kagan stressed that “the entire point of the defendant’s mitigation case was that he was . . . dominated by, unduly influenced by his older brother.” If the jury had heard that Tamerlan “was a guy who walks into places and murders three people,” they might have been more receptive to the younger brother’s portrait of his role.

Turning to the pretrial publicity issue, the questioning kept returning to the oldie but goodie trial of reputed Rhode Island Mafia boss, Raymond Patriarca. In that case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit instructed judges in future cases to conduct rigorous examination of jurors in any case with massive pretrial publicity. In the Patriarca trial, the judge asked only whether jurors could put aside what they had learned from the media. This was not enough to protect a defendant’s right to an impartial jury and henceforth, the appeals court directed judges to “to examine each prospective juror apart from other jurors and prospective jurors, with a view to eliciting the kind and degree of [media] exposure.”

Justice Sotomayor listed the avalanche of incendiary stories to which Tsarnaev’s potential jurors were exposed. She recounted the pronouncements from major politicians calling for the death penalty. It wasn’t asking too much, she said, for the judge to probe jurors for exactly what they learned and remembered from the media. But, as almost all the justices conceded, the trial judge did not conduct the required specific questioning.

If ever there was a case that required a judge to go the extra mile and probe for bias, the Boston Marathon trial was it. There was a perfect storm of prejudicial factors—an act of terrorism committed by immigrant Muslims against an iconic event done by planting bombs in ways that killed a child and two adults, and maimed hundreds of others.

And yet, if one can judge from the questioning, at least five justices (Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett) are likely to excuse the judge’s failure to probe for bias as harmless error. There was a kind of “come off it, who are you kidding, the jury was going to sentence this guy to death anyway.” If you start with that attitude, then any legal error can be winked at.

It was disappointing that no justice brought up the most troubling example of failure to screen out biased jurors. It says a lot about the stacked deck at Tsarnaev’s trial that the judge even refused to dismiss one prospective juror who posted on social media following Tsarnaev’s capture, “Congratulation to all . . . who worked so hard . . .to bring in that piece of garbage.” This person made it onto the jury and served as foreperson.

When mistakes like this are made at trial, even this pro-death-penalty Supreme Court should see why we need to give Tsarnaev a new death sentence hearing. As hard as it is to let the Boston Marathon bomber profit from this commitment to the justice he did not give his victims, that is the difference between him and us.

(source: verdict.justia.com)

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

Supreme Court Hears Argument on Department of Justice Efforts to Reinstate Death Penalty in Boston Marathon Bombing Case

A United States Supreme Court sharply divided along ideological lines heard oral argument October 13, 2021 on the Department of Justice’s appeal of a federal circuit court’s ruling overturning the death sentences imposed on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for his convictions in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Veteran court watchers reported that the 6 conservative justices seemed poised to overturn the federal appeal court’s grant of a new penalty phase hearing to Tsarnaev and to return the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to resolve the remaining challenges Tsarnaev has presented to his death sentences.

The appeals court had vacated Tsarnaev’s death sentences on 2 issues. First, it held that the trial court had improperly blocked defense lawyers from interviewing prospective jurors about the content of the extensive pretrial publicity to which they had been exposed. In addition, it determined that the trial court had unconstitutionally gutted Tsarnaev’s penalty-phase defense by excluding mitigating evidence the defense claimed was critical to demonstrating that Tsarnaev had acted under the domineering jihadist influence of his older brother, Tamerlan.

In a 1 hour, 35 minute argument that focused most intently on the second issue, Deputy Solicitor General Eric Feigin argued that the trial court properly excluded evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had committed a robbery and triple murder—including killing one of his own friends—as an act of jihad in 2011. Feigin’s argument drew support from the Court’s conservative justices, 5 of whom suggested that the evidence was unreliable and would have confused and sidetracked the jury into, as Justice Samuel Alito phrased it, a “trial within a trial” as to who of two now dead individuals was responsible for the Waltham murders.

Tsarnaev’s counsel, Ginger Anders, argued that, far from a sideshow, the evidence of the Waltham, Massachusetts murders was “a central aspect of the penalty phase” that went to the core of the defense case for life. “This is the issue, as to whether Dzhokhar is going to get the death sentence or not,” she said. “It’s whether he was indoctrinated at Tamerlan’s instigation and whether Tamerlan was more likely to lead. That’s the only argument that the defense has.”

Anders noted that prosecutors are regularly permitted to present evidence of unrelated incidents as aggravating circumstances in capital cases. Here, Anders told the court, the successful exclusion of this evidence “distorted the penalty phase … by enabling the government to present a deeply misleading account of the key issues of influence and leadership. The government argued that Tamerlan was merely bossy … [and] did no more than send Dzhokhar a few extremist articles [, and] … that the brothers were equal partners because Tamerlan had not succeeded in jihad until Dzhokhar joined him.” The evidence related to the Waltham murders proved that was not true, she said.

Justice Elena Kagan came to Anders’ defense, noting the trial court considered other far less probative acts by Tamberlan to be relevant to Tsarnaev’s claim that he was dominated by his brother. Describing the trial court’s rulings, Kagan said: “This court let in evidence about Tamerlan poking somebody in the chest. This court let in evidence about Tamerlan shouting at people. This court let in evidence about Tamerlan assaulting a former student a fellow student, all because that showed what kind of person Tamerlan was and what kind of influence he might have had over his brother. And yet, this court kept out evidence that Tamerlan led a crime that resulted in 3 murders?”

The argument on the trial court’s refusal to permit the defense to question jurors about the content of the pretrial publicity to which they were exposed turned into a highly technical discussion by the conservative justices on the extent of an appellate court’s authority to exercise its supervisory power over a trial court. In response to questions posed by Justice Clarence Thomas, Feigin said “the fundamental problem” with the appellate court’s rule requiring the district court to permit any particular type of questioning “is that it divests district courts of discretion that this Court has repeatedly insisted that they have.”

“This Court has not dictated specific forms of questioning, even in the most sensitive context of race,” Feigin argued. “I think it was inappropriate for the court of appeals here to have a rigid, wooden rule that dictates specific questioning,” he said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor countered that a rule directing a trial judge to “ask [jurors] questions about the kind and degree of publicity” to which they had been exposed “wasn’t all that rigid.” Inquiring into the kind of publicity that may have influenced jurors “seems like a totally appropriate question to me,” she said.

Saying that, “The government has declared a moratorium on death sentences, but you are here defending his execution,” Justice Amy Barrett concluded the argument with a political question. “I’m wondering what the government’s end game is here?,” she asked Feigin.

“Well, Your Honor,” Feigin responded, “the administration continues to believe the jury imposed a sound verdict and that the court of appeals was wrong to upset that verdict.” If the Court were to reinstate the death verdict against Tsarnaev, the case would still have to return to the circuit court to complete Tsarnaev’s appeal, then go through the habeas corpus process and clemency review before it reached the stage at which an execution could proceed. “Within that time, the Attorney General presumably can review the matters that are currently under review, such as the current execution protocol,” Feigin said.

While the Justice Department has temporarily paused executions, it has left prosecutors to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to seek the death penalty in pending cases and to defend death sentences on appeal. The White House has announced no formal policy on capital punishment but has reiterated that President Biden is personally opposed to the death penalty.

If the Court rules in favor of federal prosecutors in Tsarnaev’s case, the appeals court will have to face a sensitive issue its prior ruling enabled it to avoid: whether 2 of the jurors empaneled to serve on the case were actively biased against Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev’s defense lawyers had presented the circuit court with evidence of bias that included undisclosed social media posts by the jury forewoman prior to trial that referred to Tsarnaev as “that piece of garbage.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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The death penalty needs to be abolished in all 50 states

The tragic murder of Gabby Petito in Wyoming and the subsequent manhunt for her fiancé Brian Laundrie, a person of interest in the murder, have captivated the nation. There has been talk of the death penalty for whoever is charged and convicted of Petito’s murder since the case falls under Wyoming’s jurisdiction and capital punishment is legal there. But while this case is tragic and whoever committed this crime needs to face the consequences, I am against the death penalty in not only this case but as a practice in the United States.

“For thousands of years, many societies have used it (the death penalty) for serious crimes and also not-so-serious crimes,” said Daniel McConkie, a professor at NIU’s College of Law.

While capital punishment has existed in the United States since its foundation, the amount of executions has declined since the mid-20th Century, and more states have abolished the death penalty. Currently, 23 states no longer have capital punishment, as well as Washington D.C., and the states of California, Oregon and Pennsylvania currently have gubernatorial moratoriums meaning that all executions have been commuted to life imprisonment while the death penalty still remains in effect.

Among these states is Illinois, which abolished the death penalty in 2011. But this means that 24 states, the federal government and the United States military still allow it. But, between 1972 and 1976, the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional after the 1972 case Furman v. Georgia, in which the court ruled that state’s laws were administered in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner, violating the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. This decision was reversed in 1976’s Gregg v. Georgia.

But the 1972 case had it right. The death penalty does violate the Eighth Amendment because the very nature of it is cruel and unusual.

However, I am not insensitive to why the penalty exists. It’s clear goal is to punish those convicted of a crime society deems worthy of death and to deter others from following a similar path. I know that if someone close to me was murdered, I would initially want that person to die.

But first reactions are often wrong. Death is too final, and it’s wrong to take anyone’s life, no matter what they’ve done. By establishing the death penalty, we make ourselves no better than the criminals we execute. Not only that — there is little to no evidence that the death penalty is a successful deterrent.

Many states have progressively moved away from the death penalty for several reasons, McConkie said. The three primary reasons have been that the penalty has been very expensive due to the complicated procedure and the appeals which can drag on for years as well as the fact that the penalty has a history of being racially disproportionate and being applied to people of color. Finally, and most disturbingly, the penalty has a shocking record of executing innocent people.

About 1% of all American prisoners are falsely convicted, according to the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization that is committed to exonerating prisoners through the use of DNA testing and collaboration with the Justice Department. The Innocence Project also reports that around 4.1% of death row inmates are innocent as well.

With the system being wrong 4.1% of the time, is the risk worth the satisfying feeling of revenge? I don’t believe so.

With nearly half of the United States still maintaining the death penalty and 2,591 people remaining on death row at the end of 2020, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, this outdated, ineffective and brutal punishment needs to be removed from a country that is better than that.

On Jan. 4, the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2021 was introduced in the House of Representatives, which, if enacted into law, would abolish the death penalty on the federal level. The bill has since been referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. By encouraging our elected officials to push this bill through and to get it passed, the death penalty may prove to be a thing of the past.

(source: Opinion, Parker Otto; The (Northern Illinois University) Northern Star)

BAHRAIN:

The Death Penalty in Bahrain: a system built on torture

see: https://salam-dhr.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/EN-DP-Report.pdf

IRAN:

Rights group urges Iran to halt execution of man arrested at 17, sentenced in ‘grossly unfair trial'

Amnesty International is urging Iran halt the planned execution of a young man who was sentenced to death for a crime that took place when he was a child, following a grossly unfair trial marred by torture-tainted “confessions”.

Arman Abdolali was moved to solitary confinement in Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj, west of Tehran, in preparation for his execution on Wednesday October 13. His execution was scheduled twice before – in July 2021 and in January 2020 – but was halted both times after an international outcry, Amnesty International said in a statement on October 11.

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, called on the authorities to “immediately halt all plans” to execute Abdolali, saying the use of the death penalty against people who were under 18 at the time the crime was committed is prohibited under international law and constitutes an “abhorrent assault on child rights.”

Arman Abdolali was first sentenced to death in a grossly unfair trial in December 2015 after being convicted of murdering his girlfriend. The court relied on torture-tainted “confessions”, in connection with the disappearance of his girlfriend in 2014, according to Amnesty International.

The body of the girl was never found; the court stated that the murder had been committed without leaving any trace indicating that Arman Abdolali had attained “mental maturity” and understood the nature and consequences of the crime.

The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in July 2016. The trial and appeal verdicts both noted Arman Abdolali’s allegations that he was held in prolonged solitary confinement for 76 days and repeatedly beaten to “confess”, but no investigation was ordered and the “confessions” were described by the court as “unequivocal”, the rights group said.

In February 2020, the Supreme Court granted him a retrial in a case that largely focused on whether there were doubts about his “maturity” at the time of the crime.

At the retrial, the court ruled that his criminal responsibility stood in the absence of any evidence to determine his maturity so many years after the crime.

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, called on the authorities to “immediately halt all plans” to execute Abdolali, saying the use of the death penalty against people who were under 18 at the time the crime was committed is prohibited under international law and constitutes an “abhorrent assault on child rights.”

Abdolali was sentenced to death in January 2020 and in July 2021, but his execution was stopped both times after an international outcry, according to Amnesty International.

“Global action helped to stop Arman Abdolali’s previously scheduled executions. We now urge the international community, including the UN and EU, to urgently intervene to save his life,” Eltahawy said.

“Given these deeply flawed proceedings, Amnesty International is also calling on the Iranian authorities to quash Arman Abdolali’s conviction and grant him a retrial in line with fair trial standards generally and those pertaining to children in particular,” the group said.

Under international laws guiding use of the death penalty, it’s illegal to execute someone who was under 18 when they allegedly committed the crime. Despite this, and despite Iran having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child decades ago, the Iranian authorities continue to sentence juvenile offenders to death.

At least 3 men who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes have been executed so far in 2021.

Young people condemned to death in Iran spend an average of 7 years on death row before being taken out of their cells to be hanged, though in some cases juvenile offenders have spent over a decade on death row.

In a number of cases the authorities have scheduled the executions of juvenile offenders and then postponed them at the last minute, adding to the mental and physical ordeal of imprisonment on death row – a practice that is cruel, inhuman and degrading.

(source: iran-hrm.com)

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

Protests in Iran and Abroad for Raisi To Be Held Accountable for His Crimes

Ahead of the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference next month, the spokesperson for the Iranian regime’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that the regime’s president, Ebrahim Raisi will not be attending the event in Glasgow, Scotland.

The spokesperson claimed that there were never any plans for Raisi to attend in the first place, despite previous reports that he would be attending.

Once it became evident that Raisi would likely attend the COP26, the Iranian regime’s victims and a former MEP, Struan Stevenson, made a formal request for Raisi’s arrests. This formal request was made due to Raisi’s dark history of human rights violations.

Raisi was heavily involved in the 1988 massacre in Iran, during which over 30,000 political prisoners were executed for being allied with the Iranian Resistance.

Speaking of the request for Raisi’s arrest, the Times newspaper reported that human rights campaigners, victims, and families of the victims of the regime’s crimes against humanity have called on Police Scotland to launch an investigation of Raisi under the powers of universal jurisdiction for his human rights abuses.

There have been amplifying calls for holding Raisi accountable for his role in the 1988 massacre, as well as the crimes he committed as the regime’s Judiciary Chief from 2019 to 2021, mainly during the major Iran protests.

Ongoing protests continue to take place across the world to call for the regime to be held accountable for its crimes. On October 9, the day before the 19th World Day Against the Death Penalty, a series of protest rallies were held in 21 cities across the United States, Canada, and 12 different European countries. In attendance were Iranian expats and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), who all condemned the regime’s human rights violations and the increasing number of executions in Iran and called on the international community to hold Raisi and other regime officials accountable for their crimes against humanity.

The public hatred toward the regime of mass murderers is growing daily. While Raisi could hardly travel to a country where he would not be under scrutiny for his crimes against human rights, Iranians reject him wherever he goes.

Last Friday, Raisi made a visit to the Bushehr province in Iran in order to help find solutions to the problems faced in the region, however, despite reports from state media that he was warmly welcomed upon his arrival, instead he was met with protests and angry citizens.

Locals marched toward the airport, chanting ‘Justice is a lie’, as they projected their frustrations at the hollow promises that regime officials have been giving them.

Another trip Raisi made, this time to the province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad also resulted in protests upon his arrival. Locals blocked Raisi’s path as his car reached the Tang-e Sorkh region of Boyer Ahmad. According to the official IRNA News Agency, the locals were outraged and chanting angry slogans.

These protests show how Iranian people hate the regime. It also shows that Khamenei has failed in its ultimate goal of suppressing any voice of dissent by appointing Raisi as president and handpicking a cabinet of thieves and terrorists.

(source: iranfocus.com)

PAKISTAN:

Rights activists call for abolishing death penalty

The Human Rights Commi­ssion of Pakistan (HRCP) held a discussion at its office here on Thursday on the issue of death penalty in Pakistan, with a focus on women on death row, in accordance with World Day Against Death Penalty that fell past this Sunday.

Sharing some figures, HRCP vice-chairperson Qazi Khizar said that among the prisoners on death row all over the world, some five per cent happened to be women.

“There are 54 countries in the world where the law includes the death penalty as punishment. And there are 800 women there on death row,” he said, adding that there were also countries, which do not readily share such data like China, North Korea, etc.

“Here in Pakistan, also, it is not that easy to collect data on prisoners. Still, if we look at Sindh, there are 508 men and five women here on death row,” he said.

In 2020, 16 women were executed all over the world, he added.

HRCP Co-chair Asad Iqbal Butt said: “People who kill and are tried for murder are not sane. They are mentally ill. If you see them as sane, then it is your mistake.

“We have observed people on death row. They are very disturbed. They die a new death every day. Some keep banging their heads against the wall. Others become overly religious. When they pray, they lose count of how many times they kneel or bow,” he said.

“It is unfortunate but it has happened here many times that an innocent person is hanged. And then once that happens, it cannot be undone,” he said.

“What is needed here more is to fix the justice system, as people here are losing faith in our courts, instead of awarding people the death penalty,” he said.

Human rights activist, researcher and writer Akhtar Baloch said that no one who cannot award life should award death to anybody. “When it is not in your power to give someone life, then it should also not be your say to give anyone death,” he said.

“Earlier, when Pakistan came into existence, there were only two crimes here for which someone could be awarded the death penalty. But now there are as many as 26 such crimes, including blasphemy, a law which can be misused,” he lamented.

“And here there is another problem about how you reach the conclusion for awarding someone death. The police cannot even investigate a crime properly here. They lack the training, they lack the manners and they don’t understand psychology,” he added.

“Also, why do we think that death penalty is the only solution to stop people from committing crime? There are countries in this world that have abolished the death penalty and the crime level there has also dropped after that,” he said.

“The right to life, the freedom to live is a human right. It is one of the human rights in the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. The death penalty violates that right,” he said.

“Then here we also have blood money law in the form of the Qisas and Diyat under an ordinance,” he reminded. “And besides that, there is also the parallel system of Jirga. They say that all people tried in Jirga tell the truth. Well, of course, they do. It is because no one there is going to award them the death penalty. That’s what I mean when I say that crime has come down in countries where they don’t have death penalty,” he said.

Coming to the subject of women who face the death penalty, he said that jails were a terrible place. “And they can be even worse for women. Prisoners have been known to spend several years in the death cell. It can make them completely lose their mental balance,” he concluded.

“Tell me, is life imprisonment of 25 years a small punishment? Why can’t we stick to that instead of awarding death to the people found guilty of a crime punishable by death? Why can’t we create awareness instead?”

(source: dawn.com)

INDIA:

Uthra Murder: How the Trial Court Didn’t Succumb to ‘Collective Conscience'----By not awarding the death sentence to the convict in the case, the trial court firmly resisted pressures from civil society.

Sentencing a convict found guilty of heinous offences by a judge is not easy, especially if the judge has to use her discretion. Her problems – in the absence of an acceptable framework or guidelines – may limit her discretion if she is confronted with a cry for revenge against the convict from civil society, fuelled by the media’s campaign for ‘justice’ for the victim, and the collective disgust against the diabolical nature of the crime.

Scholar Mrinal Satish argues in his book Discretion, Discrimination and the Rule of Law: Reforming Rape Sentencing in India (Cambridge University Press, 2017) that present sentencing practices in Indian courts often constitute an inappropriate exercise of discretion – that is, an abuse of discretion. Satish suggests that courts have failed to employ proper reasoning, based on legal principles, in making sentencing decisions. He further argues that by virtue of not providing guidelines for the exercise of discretion, the existing sentencing framework under the Indian Penal Code falls foul of the due process protections guaranteed by Article 21 of the constitution, besides violating Article 14 of the constitution. Mrinal Satish recommends a full-time sentencing commission with the responsibility of drafting sentencing guidelines as a remedy.

While his recommendation makes sense, lack of agreement on what constitutes “collective conscience of society” to determine the rarest of rare (ROR) crime that invites imposition of death sentence continues to mark death penalty jurisprudence in India.

In State of Kerala vs Suraj S. Kumar (known as the Uthra murder case), the trial court on Wednesday sentenced Suraj to life imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh for the murder of his 25-year-old disabled wife, Uthra. Suraj was found guilty of throwing a starving cobra onto the sleeping wife to induce death by snakebite.

The special public prosecutor (SPP) argued that when the uxoricide was committed in a manner of unparalleled cunning and in an extremely dastardly and ghastly manner, normal punishment of life imprisonment is not sufficient. For the first time in the history of Kerala, the modus operandi of using a live cobra as a weapon for murder was adopted, for inflicting deadly envenomation on a hapless victim who was bedridden. Even as the victim was convalescing after the first murder attempt failed, the accused was planning to inflict a cobra bite to kill her. The SPP argued that the murder was committed in a diabolic, brutal, grotesque and abhorrent manner which has shocked “the collective conscience of the society”.

The additional sessions judge M. Manoj agreed with the prosecution that the accused committed uxoricide in a diabolic, ghastly and dastardly manner by adopting a method of unparalleled wickedness. He prepared and planned for the murder even while Uthra was convalescing after the viper bite from the first attempt to kill her. On both occasions of the attempt to murder and the murder, the unsuspecting victim and the accused were alone in the room. The accused had purchased and kept the venomous snakes in his possession and was seeking the right opportunity to murder the hapless victim, while she was unsuspectingly thinking that the accused, her husband, was loving her. The accused was even able to take his in-laws into confidence after the first attempt of murder was unsuccessful. He sedated the unsuspecting victim on both occasions by giving drugs mixed in liquids which he gave her to drink. The victim unsuspectingly drank the same, mistaking it for the love of the accused, but in fact the accused gave her a poisoned chalice. In the said circumstance, the judge concluded that the commission of murder was definitely diabolic, cruel, heinous and dastardly.

The punishment for murder prescribed under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code is death or imprisonment for life with fine. Under Section 354(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), when the conviction is for an offence punishable with death or, in the alternative, with imprisonment for life or for a term of years, the judgment shall state the reasons for the sentence awarded, and, in the case of sentence of death, the special reasons for the sentence. It is clear, the judge held, that imprisonment for life is the rule and death sentence the exception, which can be awarded for special reasons.

The judge then cited the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in Macchi Singh vs State of Punjab (1983) which, in turn, relied on the rarest of rare doctrine propounded by the Supreme Court in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab (1980). Macchi Singh is well-known for laying down the guidelines for awarding death sentence.

The judge recalled that the doctrine of rarest of rare case confines two aspects and when both the aspects are satisfied, only then can the death penalty be imposed. Firstly, the case must clearly fall within the ambit of “rarest of rare” and secondly, when the alternative option of awarding imprisonment for life is foreclosed. The selection of death punishment as the penalty is the last resort when the alternative punishment of life imprisonment will be futile and serves no purpose.

The judge then relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Md Mannan @ Abdul Mannan vs State of Bihar (2019) regarding the criteria to decide the rarest of the rare category. In this case, the Supreme Court held that in deciding whether a case falls within the category of the rarest of rare, it is not just the crime which the court is to take into consideration, but also the criminal, the state of his mind, his socio-economic background, etc. The court also held that awarding the death sentence is an exception and life imprisonment is the rule.

In paragraph 75 of Md Mannan, the court held that before imposing the extreme penalty of death sentence, the sentencing court would have to satisfy itself that death sentence is imperative, as otherwise the convict would be a threat to society, and that there is no possibility of reform or rehabilitation of the convict, after giving the convict an effective, meaningful, real opportunity of hearing on the question of sentence, by producing materials.

The judge in the Uthra murder case then considered the mitigating circumstances in favour of the accused. The accused is aged 28 years and the prosecution does not have a case that before pursuing his diabolic plan to commit uxoricide, he had criminal antecedents and was involved in offences of grave nature of moral turpitude in the past.

The judge concluded that in the absence of any criminal antecedents, the young age of the accused would be a mitigating circumstance. The judge wrote:

“Without a person having criminal antecedents, it cannot be held that, if death sentence is not awarded, he would be a threat to the society. In the said circumstances the chances of reformation of the accused cannot be said to be foreclosed and the case does not fall in the category of rarest of the rare so as to award death sentence…. it is held that death sentence need not be imposed and a sentence of imprisonment for life would serve the interest of justice.”

The ASJ implicitly rejected the SPP’s plea to impose the death penalty because the case has shocked the “collective conscience of the society”. The theory of collective conscience of the society assumes that sentence must demonstrate the law’s obligation to the society which has reposed faith in the justice delivery system in curtailing the evil. On the other hand, the Supreme Court has held in one case that the court must not be an oracle of the public opinion and recognise limits to judicial power. They must ensure that individual rights guaranteed by the constitution are at a higher pedestal than public opinion.

Recent cases

In a recent case (Arvind Singh vs The State of Maharashtra), however, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices U.U. Lalit, Indu Malhotra and Hemant Gupta (judgment authored by Justice Hemant Gupta), while commuting the death sentence awarded by the lower courts to life imprisonment for the accused, observed thus:

“What is required to be examined is whether there is a possibility of rehabilitation and whether it is the rarest of rare case where the collective conscience of the community is so shocked that it will expect the holders of judicial power to inflict death penalty irrespective of their personal opinion as regards desirability or otherwise of retaining death penalty.”

The prase “collective conscience of the community is so shocked” is borrowed from the Supreme Court’s judgment in Machhi Singh wherein it was observed that the community may entertain such a sentiment when the crime is viewed from the platform of the motive for, or the manner of commission of the crime, or the anti-social or abhorrent nature of the crime.

The bench in Arvind Singh applied the concept of special sentencing, upheld by the court in previous cases, and directed that the life imprisonment of the accused should be till the end of his life, and there should be no remission of sentence before he completes 25 years of imprisonment.

In Ravi Ashok Ghumare vs State of Maharashtra, decided on October 3, 2019, the Supreme Court bench of justices R. Subhash Reddy and Surya Kant delivered a split verdict. While Justice Surya Kant confirmed the death sentence of the accused, Justice Subhash Reddy commuted it to life imprisonment, i.e., to suffer for life till his natural death, without any remission/commutation. While Justice Surya Kant relied on the theory of collective conscience, Justice Subhash Reddy emphasised the absence of previous criminal record of the appellant, and the fact that in a similar set of facts, the court had modified the death sentence to life imprisonment in previous cases.

Justice Subhash Reddy, however, had confirmed the death sentence of the accused in a kidnapping case by relying on the theory of collective conscience of the society in Ishwari Lal Yadav and State of Chhattisgarh, delivered on the same day.

In Manoharan vs State, a 3-judge bench gave a split verdict. Two Judges, Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Surya Kant relied on the theory of collective conscience, to confirm the death sentence of the accused, while Justice Sanjiv Khanna opted to impose sentence till his natural death, without remission.

It appears as though the theory of collective conscience being shocked by the gravity of the crime as the aggravating factor for confirming death sentence continues to sway the Supreme Court judges, even though a rethinking among the trial court judges is discernible, as evident from the Uthra murder case.

(source: thewire.in)

CHINA:

Man Whose Attack on Ex-Wife Was Livestreamed Gets Death Penalty in China----The case riveted the public’s attention in China and spotlighted the patchy enforcement of the country’s law against domestic violence.

A court in China gave the death penalty to a man who murdered his ex-wife while she was livestreaming, a case that shocked the country and ignited calls for better safeguards against domestic abuse.

The man, Tang Lu, committed “utterly cruel” criminal acts, the court in Sichuan Province said in Thursday’s verdict, which was handed down after a one-day hearing, according to official news reports.

The case had drawn intense attention in China, where the legal system has been criticized for failing to protect women from domestic violence, even after they seek help.

Mr. Tang’s ex-wife, Lhamo, 30, had done that repeatedly before September last year, when he doused her with gasoline and set her ablaze while she was streaming on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.

Mr. Tang’s actions had caused an “utterly vile” impact on society, the court said in justifying “severe punishment.”

China introduced a law against domestic violence in 2016. But penalties are minimal, and women say restraining orders are rarely enforced. More than 900 women have died at the hands of their husbands or partners since the law was enacted, according to Beijing Equality, a women’s rights group.

Mr. Tang’s wife was Tibetan, and like many people from her region, she used only one name. Ms. Lhamo was born into poverty and wed Mr. Tang in 2009. He beat her repeatedly during their quarrels, the court said, and the couple divorced in March of last year.

Mr. Tang immediately pushed Ms. Lhamo to remarry and threatened to kill their children if she refused, Ms. Lhamo’s sister, Dolma, told The New York Times in an interview last year. Ms. Lhamo called the police but they ignored her pleas for help, her sister said.

The couple remarried, and soon after, Mr. Tang tried hurting Ms. Lhamo and Ms. Dolma again. But when Ms. Lhamo went to the authorities, she was told that it was a “personal family matter,” according to Ms. Dolma.

A court approved the couple’s second divorce in June of last year, and Ms. Lhamo spent most of the summer deep in the mountains picking herbs. She posted videos of herself cooking and singing to hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

On Sept. 14, 2020, Mr. Tang went to the home of Ms. Lhamo’s father, the court said, where he found Ms. Lhamo livestreaming in the kitchen and attacked her.

“She looked like a piece of charcoal,” Ms. Dolma told The Times. “He burned almost all her skin off.”

Ms. Lhamo later died of her injuries.

(source: New York Times)

UNITED KINGDOM/THAILAND:

Bassett journalist saved framed trio facing death penalty for drug trafficking in Thailand----Andrew Drummond found evidence to clear the names of three people on death row from his cottage in Royal Wootton Bassett

A JOURNALIST worked from his Royal Wootton Bassett home to help acquit three people sentenced to death for drugs trafficking 7,000 miles away.

Andrew Drummond, who moved from Bangkok to Wiltshire in 2015 provided evidence in the case of a trio who faced the death penalty in Thailand for trafficking in over 500kgs of methamphetamine for the Australian Hell’s Angels.

They were not guilty of the offence and had been framed by offshore workers working for Thai police.

Luke Cook, 38, from Western Australia managed to get a message out of jail via email to Andrew which explained the dangerous situation that he, his 40-year-old wife Kanyarat Wechapitak and 26-year-old Tyler Gerard found themselves in.

At a Thai police press conference in 2017, amateur sailor Luke was said to have been paid $10 million by Hell’s Angel Wayne Schneider to sail his yacht into international waters to pick up drugs from a Chinese trawler.

He had allegedly dumped the drugs in the sea after being caught in the searchlight of a Thai naval vessel, but 50.4 kgs had washed ashore.

After the drugs were dumped, Wayne Schneider was kidnapped, tortured, and killed by a gang whose leader was on the run in connection with a murder in Sydney.

It all sounded like a film plot, but 2 defectors from the police unit contacted Andrew Drummond and told a completely different story.

They confirmed Luke he was set-up by 2 of their colleagues who were angry that his Thai wife, who offered legal services for foreigners, had cheated them out of over a million Thai baht in legal actions which had failed.

The 2 defectors openly stated that the police unit’s main objective was to make money for its colonel, but thought that the setting up of Luke for a death sentence was ‘a bit over the top.’

The defectors said the unit’s only evidence in the investigation, which did not start until 2 years after the drugs washed ashore, was that one of the two offshore worker witnesses in the police squad said that Luke Cook had confessed everything to him.

They had no proof of this confession but for 6 months, the team tried to build up circumstantial evidence to support the charges.

The offshore worker and main witness had, the defectors said, dropped a wrap of cocaine in Luke’s garden in Pattaya which would be found when police raided – and they supplied a Google Earth photo marking the spot to the police.

Andrew later found that a third person claimed he had been framed on charges by the same offshore workers. It was only when Andrew checked records in Australia and got the full inquest report on Wayne Schneider that the full story became clear.

The principal witness against Luke had arranged both cars used in the kidnap of Schneider and rented the house used for his torture and murder.

The New South Wales Gang Squad backed this up and said it was him who was close to gang leader Bagnato, not Luke.

After Andrew reported this incredible tale on his website the Thai Police’s anti-human trafficking department contacted him because they had issued a warrant for the principal witness' arrest for trafficking women from Tanzania and Kenya for sex work in Thailand.

Now that the real culprits had been found, the framed trio avoided a death sentence.

Andrew said: “I had been in regular contact with Luke’s father Paul in New Zealand and passed on the relevant documentation for Bangkok Supreme Court. Last month, all 3 were acquitted and Luke is back home.

“Paul wrote to say: Thank you so much for what you have done your help certainly helped in getting true justice for the 3 of them.’

“What shocked me about this story was not so much the behaviour of the Thai police but of the Australian media who never veered from the Thai Police line that Luke Cook was a Hell’s Angel living well beyond his means.

“There was no evidence of it. They seized what he had only to find his house was mortgaged and his BMW was leased. At least I was given the chance to report his acquittal and release in the Sydney Morning Herald. Then I went for a pint along the road in the Five Bells.”

IMPRESSIVE CAREER OF ESTEEMED JOURNALIST

EXPERIENCED investigative journalist Andrew Drummond has an impressive career.

The 70-year-old worked on the Berkshire Mercury before going to Fleet Street to work for various newspapers including the Standard, Mail and News of the World - where he received the Award for Investigations into Racism and Fascism.

After a short while freelancing at the Mail on Sunday, he moved to the Observer as a foreign correspondent covering Southeast Asia.

In 1990, he moved to Asia as correspondent for the Standard and The Times, and made TV documentaries developed from his investigations.

Apart from covering the major events such as the Bali bombings, 2004 tsunami, and uprisings and coups in Myanmar and Thailand, his work veered towards foreign crime, which included murders of British backpackers, and the rising number of British criminals in Thailand.

He tracked Gary Glitter around Asia, chased him out of Cambodia and confronted him in Vung Tao, Vietnam.

In 2013, after a Thai police officer was convicted and jailed for the murder of Canadian backpacker Leo del Pinto in Northern Thailand, Dr. Surasee Kosolnavin said: “The one person to thank for this is Andrew Drummond.”

(source: swindonadvertiser.co.uk)

EUROPE:

The OSCE is organizing a webinar titled "The road to abolition of the death penalty in the OSCE region" on 27 October from 15.00 to 16.30 CET during which they will launch their 2021 Background Paper on the death penalty.

To register: https://osce-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_9AuEPMwNTNqYh-uscI_WtA

This year’s background paper highlights some of the most influential factors on a state’s road to abolition of the death penalty, referencing the abolition process in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Latvia and the American state of Virginia. It demonstrates how abolition can be achieved in very different contexts when broad coalitions of national and international actors work together: https://www.osce.org/death_penalty_2021

----

The road to abolition of the death penalty in the OSCE region

Join us for the launch of ODIHR's 2021 Background Paper on the Death Penalty in theOSCE area which highlights some of the most influential factors on a state’s road to abolition of the death penalty, referencing the abolition process in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Latvia and the American state of Virginia.

27 October 2021, Online (15:00 – 16:30 CET)

The webinar will be held in English.

Interpretation ENG-RUS will be available.

Welcoming remarks from ODIHR Director, Matteo Mecacci

Keynote address by Jeanne Bishop, attorney, activist and author. Since the killing of her loved ones, Bishop has advocated nationally and internationally for the abolition of the death penalty

Panel discussion with national and international experts

(source: ECPM)

FRANCE:

40 years since the guillotine fell silent - Cécile Coudriou

It's been 4 decades since the mighty guillotine, nicknamed the "national razor", was closeted for good when France abolished the death penalty – becoming the 36th country in the world to do so. Paris Perspective looks back at the landmark legislation that struck capital punishment from France's statute books, and how the campaign to end state executions is being waged elsewhere in the world.

The process that sent France on the path towards ending the death penalty began at a conference in Stockholm in 1977 – incidentally the same year the guillotine, which famously lopped off some 10,000 heads during the French Revolution alone, was last used.

Curiously, French people in the 1970s were quite attached to the beaheading device, with more than 60 % of the population in favour. At the time, Amnesty International spearheaded the campaign for the universal abolition of state sanctioned executions.

The Stockholm conference was the first time the rights group went beyond international law, given that it does not prohibit capital punishment for the most serious of crimes.

"We had a lot of debates, internally ... so we decided in 1977 to call for an international conference in Stockholm, which led to the famous declaration," Cécile Coudriou, president of Amnesty International France, told RFI.

"For the first time, the objective of universal abolition of the death penalty became our motto."

The Stockholm declaration was the opening salvo of a long battle for the global eradication of execution from the statute books. It also gave purpose to Amnesty's interpretation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which holds that every person has a right to life and that nobody should suffer "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment".

"For us, this is our definition of the death penalty", Coudriou says. "It was only natural ... even though it wasn't easy for all to agree that this should be our objective."

Turning the tide of French opinion

In the four years that followed the Stockholm declaration, the people of France needed to be convinced to give up the guillotine.

In September 1981, justice minister Robert Badinter delivered an empassioned speech to the National Assembly, turning the tide of French opinion. So what were the arguments that won over the people?

He tore down the the illusion that the death penalty would deter people from committing crimes, Coudriou explains, adding that the idea of justice via execution is an myth that is "lost to revenge".

Indeed modern statistics prove this to be true.

Badinter succeeded in countering arguements for state execution as a deterrent by giving examples of those who had been sentenced to death for committing horrendous crimes.

"If they were in jail, what kind of danger would they represent to society? He destroyed one argument after the other. He could feel this emotional and unhealthy attachment to death penalty," Coudriou recalls.

"But he was very clever, by making the punishment as concrete and as real as possible – not as an abstract concept, but by showing us the reality of the blade.

"He used the sound of the blade, cutting in 2, a man who is still alive."

Religion sets the US execution agenda

In 2020, the United States executed 17 people. And seven have been put to death so far this year. In a modern Western democracy such as the US, what are the arguments put forward by individual states for the retention of capital punishment?

Coudriou says religion explains a lot, adding that southern states are strongly attached to death penalty.

"It's a vision of justice which is again confused with revenge. There is the same belief that if people have killed, it's not only God, but also men who should be responsible for protecting future lives by killing."

For Amnesty International, that argument is not only illogical, but unacceptable.

The death penalty represents the opposite of civilisation.

•Paris Perspective #6: Libya, human trafficking and the French connection

•Paris Perspective #9: Discrimination in France and the 'George Floyd effect'

Abolition must become a pillar of French diplomacy

On the world stage, France prides itself as the birthplace of enlightenment and the land of human rights.

Since striking the death penalty from its own statute books, what kind of role have successive French governments played in pushing for the abolition of the death penalty elsewhere?

Is the eradication of capital punishment a pillar of French diplomacy?

Coudriou says that it is "exactly that line" that Amnesty International is pushing as France marks the 40th anniversary of abolition.

"France's voice can be heard in different parts of the world, particularly in Africa because of the historical links," she says.

"We believe that France could play a role in creating original dynamics ... like in Chad last year and in Sierra Leone a few months ago.

"If we are exemplary we can create a domino effect. The same goes for democracies like India, the US or Japan. These three countries are potential targets for advocacy work because they want to be seen as stronger democracies."

For Coudriou, France has to do more and put the abolition of the death penalty to the forefront of its diplomatic agenda.

(source: modernghana.com)

SINGAPORE:

Singaporean man was given death penalty after he was found with 0.9kg of cannabis on him

A man in Singapore was given the death penalty after authorities found him with 0.9kg of cannabis.

Omar Yacob Bamadhaj, 41, was first sentenced to death in February, and his appeal was overturned by a court on Tuesday, Channel News Asia reported.

He was sentenced to death by hanging, the outlet said.

He was convicted of bringing at least 0.9kg of cannabis into Singapore in 2018 after he was found with it wrapped in foil and newspaper in the trunk of the car he was in while his dad was driving, the report said.

His lawyers said there was doubt over whether he knowingly brought the drugs into the city state. Bamadhaj argued in court that he didn't know what was in the trunk, and that other people had put it there without him knowing, according to Channel News Asia.

But when he was first arrested, he had said that his acquaintances had convinced him to bring the substance into Singapore, and that he didn't want to do it but needed the money, the report said.

He also argued at one point that drug enforcement officers had "coerced" him into an admission, saying an officer had threatened to punish both him and his father with a hanging if he refused to confess, Channel News Asia reported.

Possession, consumption, and the importing and exporting of cannabis is illegal in Singapore.

Singapore is known for its strict law enforcement, and human rights groups have long been critical of Singapore's use of the death penalty.

(source: businessinsider.co.za)

OCTOBER 14, 2021:

TEXAS:

Jewish death row inmate in Texas could get new trial after judge is accused of being antisemitic

A district judge in Texas ruled on Monday that Randy Halprin, a Jewish death row inmate, is entitled to a new trial, after the judge who sentenced him was accused of antisemitism.

It is now up to Texas' highest criminal court to decide whether Halprin, 44, will receive a new trial.

In December 2000, Halprin was serving a 30-year sentence for felony injury to a child. He escaped with 6 other inmates, and while on the run, they robbed a sporting goods store in Irving, Texas. The inmates shot and killed a police officer who responded to the robbery; within a few weeks, 6 were captured and the other one died by suicide. All 6 were tried separately and sentenced to death, with Judge Vickers Cunningham overseeing the trials of Halprin and 4 other inmates.

In 2019, Halprin petitioned for a new trial, accusing Cunningham of being antisemitic and referring to him as a "f---king Jew." A year earlier, when Cunningham entered the Republican primary for a Dallas County commissioner's seat, campaign workers went on the record saying they heard Cunningham use the N-word. Cunningham's estranged brother, who is gay and married to a Black man, described him as a bigot who set up a trust fund so his children could only have the money if they married white, Christian people of the opposite sex. Cunningham denied being racist, but said he did set up the trust in such a way because he "strongly support[s] traditional family values."

Less than a week before he was to be put to death, Halprin's execution was put on pause, and Dallas Criminal District Judge Lela Mays was put in charge of determining whether he should have a new trial. In her Monday ruling, Mays wrote that she found Cunningham "harbored actual, subjective bias against Halprin because Halprin is a Jew, and that Judge Cunningham's antisemitic prejudices created an objectively intolerable risk of bias." A new fair trial, she added, is "the only remedy."

Prosecutors who tried Halprin's case have condemned Cunningham's alleged comments but said Halprin still received a fair trial.

(source: Yahoo News)

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

Trial Court Recommends New Trial for Jewish Death-Row Prisoner Tried Before Racist and Anti-Semitic Judge

A Texas judge has recommended that the conviction and death sentence of death-row prisoner Randy Halprin, who is Jewish, be overturned because of the religious bigotry of the judge presiding over his trial.

In a statement of findings released on October 11, 2021, Dallas Criminal District Court Judge Lela Mays wrote that “Judge Vickers Cunningham possessed anti-Semitic prejudice against Halprin which violated Halprin’s constitutional right to a trial in a fair tribunal, equal protection, and free exercise of religion.” The “only remedy” for Halprin, Mays said, is “a new fair trial.”

Halprin was sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer who responded to a robbery committed by a group of inmates, later dubbed the “Texas 7,” who had escaped from a Texas prison in 2000. Halprin, who was not involved in the shooting itself, was convicted under the Texas “law of parties,” which makes accomplices equally liable for the acts of everyone involved in the underlying felony.

The trial was presided over by Dallas County Judge Vickers Cunningham, who referred to Halprin as a “f***ing Jew” and a “G*dd**n k**e” and called Halprin’s Latino co-defendants “wetb***s.” A 2018 Dallas Morning News report said the former judge had made racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic remarks, and had even set up a trust for his children, provided they married a white Christian of the opposite sex. According to court documents, Halprin’s lawyers spoke with an acquaintance of Cunningham who said Cunningham “took special pride in the death sentences [of the Texas 7] because they included Latinos and a Jew.” Cunningham referred to his brother, who was gay and whose partner was Black, as “N****r Bill.” He later launched a campaign for Dallas District Attorney, so “that he could save Dallas from ‘n****rs, we****ks, Jews, and dirty Catholics.’”

“In light of all the evidence, this court finds both that Judge Cunningham harbored actual, subjective bias against Halprin because Halprin is a Jew, and that Judge Cunningham’s anti-Semitic prejudices created an objectively intolerable risk of bias,” wrote Mays. She also wrote that “Judge Cunningham’s bias towards Halprin not only harmed him, but it undermined the public’s confidence that criminal justice has been — and will be — dispensed impartially.”

Halprin came within a week of execution in October 2019, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) granted him a stay based on Cunningham’s comments and directed the Dallas County court to conduct an evidentiary hearing and recommend further action on Halprin’s claim that Cunningham’s bigotry denied him a fair trial before an impartial tribunal.

Attorneys for the state of Texas did not dispute Cunningham’s anti-Semitic and racist views but said there was no evidence those views affected the outcome of Halprin’s trial. The case now returns to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, who must decide whether to accept or reject Mays’ recommendation.

“Judge Mays undoubtedly made the right call,” said Tivon Shardl, one of Halprin’s lead attorneys. “The facts were never in dispute. Contrary to what the State said, the Constitution protects Texans from religious bigotry in the criminal justice system. We’re confident the Court of Criminal Appeals will reach the same conclusion and order a new, fair trial for Randy Halprin.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

***********

Love walks free after DA's office moves to dismiss decade-old capital murder case

Albert Leslie Love Jr., carried two garbage sacks filled with his personal belongings Wednesday afternoon from 10½ years behind bars as he walked out of the McLennan County Jail and into the arms of his sister and niece.

Albert Love said it was a blessing to be leaving the McLennan County Jail after being incarcerated more than a decade.

Love, a former death row inmate who was awaiting a retrial on a capital murder charge in a double slaying in East Waco, was released from jail after the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office filed a notice Wednesday to dismiss the charge, citing insufficient time to prepare the case.

Love had spent 3 years and 3 months on death row before his capital murder conviction was overturned in 2017. He spent four years and four months in the county jail waiting for a retrial that was to occur Oct. 25.

“It is a blessing, man. Without God, this would not be possible,” Love said around 4:15 p.m. in the jail parking lot on Highway 6 as he prepared to spend his first night of freedom in more than a decade.

“For the most part, man, I kind of knew this was going to take place because I had that faith and trust in God and He gave me that word of deliverance and I stood on His word and it finally came to manifestation,” Love said.

Asked if he thinks the DA’s office will attempt to pursue the charges against him later, Love quoted the book of Isaiah.

“That is all in God’s hand, you know what I’m saying? ‘No weapon formed against me shall prosper,’ so regardless of what happens, God got me. I am protected by His blood. They can try what they can, but they won’t prosper, you know?”

The DA’s office dropped the case Wednesday, 5 days after a judge denied a state motion to postpone Love’s Oct. 25 retrial.

“I have a great deal of concern about his walking out of jail,” District Attorney Barry Johnson said earlier Wednesday. “It is because of the ruling of the 19th State District Court not giving us that 90 days. If he does get out and walk on the street, it is because of that ruling.” Albert Leslie Love Jr.

Prosecutors would not comment on whether his office would pursue another case against Love.

Love, 38, was convicted and sentenced to death in the March 2011 shooting deaths of Keenan Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, at the former Lakewood Villas apartment complex, 1601 Spring St. He spent three years on death row before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed his conviction and death sentence and awarded him a new trial on procedural grounds. The court ruled that text messages were improperly used against him because they were obtained without a warrant.

On Friday, Judge West rejected a motion from prosecutors in Johnson’s office to postpone Love’s trial for 90 days. Prosecutors said they had a red hoodie that a witness said Love was wearing on the night of the murder, and they needed time to have it tested for DNA and gunshot residue.

That testing evidence was crucial to prosecutors because the witness recanted his testimony a month before the upcoming trial, First Assistant District Attorney Nelson Barnes said.

“The motion sets forth our position completely,” Johnson said Wednesday. “Our situation is something that came up recently as we were preparing for trial and we could not put the prosecution at risk. We had no other choice but to dismiss and keep working on the case. That is what we did. I can’t talk about the ruling of the 19th District Court, but if Albert Love gets out of jail, it is because of that ruling.”

When asked why his office was not prepared for Love’s retrial when it had almost three years to get ready, Johnson said, “Things happened that are beyond our control.”

“When we have a witness recant a month before trial, we have to turn over every stone and that is what we were doing,” Johnson said. “We were just asking for an additional 90 days. That was our first motion for continuance. The reason the case was delayed from the time we took office in January 2019 was because the defense lawyer had cancer. Things are beyond our control. We just needed 90 days to get the DNA back, which could prove exculpatory or inculpatory.”

Johnson said they didn’t send the hoodie for DNA testing to a private lab because they are “outrageously expensive and my understanding is they are not much quicker than the other labs.”

The dismissal motion says the state must prove that Love was at the crime scene when Hubert and Sneed were killed in an ambush-style slaying.

“2 crucial items of evidence supporting this fact, which were available during the initial trial, are presently unavailable for use during a new trial scheduled to begin on October 25, 2021,” the motion states. “First, electronic text messages were critical evidence of Defendant’s presence at the time and place of the murders which was presented during the 2013 trial. However, due to the decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals, these material and highly probative text messages are presently inadmissible for use.

“Second, a witness provided a recorded statement, and was anticipated to testify at trial, that Defendant was at the scene of the murders bearing an AK-47 styled rifle and wearing a red hoodie and red sweatshirt. The witness has within the last few weeks recanted his statement, now asserting his recorded statement to have been false,” states the motion to dismiss.

The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the case in 2016, ruling that Waco police failed to get a search warrant for the incriminating text messages found on Love’s phone and that evidence was improperly admitted at his trial.

Because of the witness’ recantation, prosecutors said it became necessary to have the hoodie tested for DNA and gunshot residue, which the motion says could prove Love’s involvement in the shootings or help his case, depending on what the forensic analysis shows.

The motion to dismiss, filed by Barnes, said the state has a “duty” to dismiss the case in light of West denying the motion for continuance.

“The McLennan County Criminal District Attorney’s Office has a Constitutional, statutory, and ethical duty not to proceed with the prosecution of the above cause prior to the availability of the results of potentially incriminating or exculpatory evidence in this capital murder case,” the motion states.

According to court records, the DA’s office obtained its first subpoena for witnesses for the Oct. 25 trial on Sept. 19. West conducted a status hearing in the case on April 9 at which he set an initial trial date in August. A new scheduling order was put in place at a July 15 status conference and the August trial date was moved to Oct. 25.

Love’s first trial was moved to Georgetown because Love’s co-defendant, Rickey Donnell Cummings, was tried first in Waco. Cummings has been on death row since 2012. Rickey Cummings’ younger brother, D’Arvis Cummings, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in September 2014. He pleaded guilty to murder as a party to the ambush slayings.

Deontrae Majors and Marion Bible, who were in the front seat of the car Hubert and Sneed were in when they were killed, were wounded in the attack but managed to escape.

(source: Waco Tribune)

MASSACHUSETTS:

Upcoming West End Museum Lecture Recalls History of Leverett Street Jail

The West End Museum is getting into the Halloween spirit with “Ghosts in the Museum: The Leverett Street Jail,” a talk that explores the history of the 19th-century jail (which stood where the museum now is ), on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 6:30 p.m. at 150 Staniford St., Suite 7.

The jail, which served as the city and county prison from 1822 until 1851, was reportedly infamous for overcrowding, as well as for mixing inmates, regardless of the severity of their crimes. Seven of 10 women incarcerated there were innocent, arrested purely on the word of others for offenses like speaking out about politics, while some of the jail’s most-notorious one-time inmates include Don Pedro Gilbert, the last pirate executed in Boston; Abner Kneeland, who preached birth control, women’s property rights and interracial marriage, and was the last person in the U.S. convicted of blasphemy; William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist leader, suffragist, and social reformer who was held there temporarily for his own protection against an angry mob; and Dr. John Webster, who was convicted and hanged for the 1849 murder of George Parkman.

Webster’s case was “the equivalent of the OJ trial today,” according to Duane Lucca, the museum president who is giving the upcoming talk. Around 60,000 people, or 1/2 the city’s population at the time, attending the 12-day trial, added Lucca.

The Leverett Street Jail was also the site of around 20 hangings, said Lucca, but unlike previous hangings, which were held publicly where SoWa (South of Washington) is today to deter others from committing crimes, executions at the jail took place in a courtyard surrounded by high walls. As a result, people would get on the rooftops of neighboring buildings to view the hangings, said Lucca, while some enterprising individuals even charged admission to access the rooftops for the executions.

“Ghosts in the Museum is the 2nd lecture Lucca has delivered on the history of the Leverett Street Jail, following the first in 2015. But the new program will supplement the research he did back then with his new findings, which include items uncovered in old newspapers and court records. “It’s an ongoing process,” said Lucca.

In the case of Duncan Winter, who committed suicide in the jail, his death was erroneously reported as a hanging, said Lucca, . but in fact, an accomplice of Winter’s named Sylvester Polson was actually the one who hanged, although there is little record of this.

The lecture will also explore abolitionism as it pertains to capital punishment.

“Everybody knows about the abolition movement against slavery, but not everyone knows the backstory,” said Lucca. “Abolition was much broader – there was the abolition of alcohol, the abolition of capital punishment.”

For nearly 13 years, there wasn’t a public execution at the Leverett Street Jail until the hanging of Washington Good, a young black sailor convicted of 1st-degree murder, in 1849. “His was gruesome,” said Lucca, who added that Good had tried to committee suicide in the jail and was unconscious and tied to a chair at the time of his hanging.

Moreover, of the roughly 20 people executed at Leverett Street Jail, more than 1/2 of them were black and Hispanic who were definitely not tried by their peers, said Lucca.

(source: Beacon Hill Times)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Alabama death row inmate Willie B. Smith III now allowed 6 execution witnesses, only 1 reporter

Alabama death row inmate Willie B. Smith III will now be allowed to have 6 of his designated witnesses to attend his execution scheduled for Oct. 21, according to an order in the Middle District of Alabama.

During a hearing, Alabama lawyers said Smith’s witnesses will be allowed to attend only if they sign a waiver, according to CW33.

“Each of the Plaintiff’s 5 requested witnesses had signed a waiver provided by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) with the understanding that these waivers would allow all 5 witnesses to attend the Plaintiff’s scheduled execution, despite language in the ADOC’s COVID Protocol limiting the number of witnesses permitted inside the viewing rooms,” the order states.

The Alabama Department of Corrections said only one member of the press, a reporter from the Associated Press, will be present during the execution due to COVID-19 concerns.

“In accordance with our current measures for execution at Holman Correctional Facility during the COVID-19 pandemic, only one (1) media representative from the Associated Press will be allowed in as a witness,” said ADOC interim spokeswoman Kristi Simpson in an email to AL.com.

“As with all executions, non-witness media personnel will be allowed access to the media center so long as they adhere to our COVID-19 safety protocols to include proper mask use and six (6) foot social distancing,” the email said.

The policy was implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when there were no vaccines available to prevent serious illness or death from the virus.

The state called off his execution on the night he was to have been put to death in February. The decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court said he could not be executed without his personal spiritual advisor present in the room with him.

Press from across the state has voiced criticism and concern regarding the decision, including Kelly Ann Scott, vice president of content for Alabama Media Group.

“In an execution, the state is using its power in an ultimate act,” Scott said. “The role of the press as a witness is to make sure that final act is carried out according to the Constitution and to hold the state accountable in its actions. We are the eyes and ears of the public as witnesses.”

“Press witnesses ensure transparency in the actions the state is taking on behalf of the public. This is an act that should bring more scrutiny, not less.”

The Alabama Supreme Court set an October execution date for Smith despite a judge scheduling a 2022 trial on claims related to his IQ, which is around 70. His lawyers have appealed an earlier ruling dismissing his claims that officials violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Prosecutors said Smith abducted 22-year-old Sharma Ruth Johnson, the sister of a police detective, in Birmingham at gunpoint from an ATM, stole $80 from her and then took her to a cemetery where he shot her in the back of the head.

(source: al.com)

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

Mental capacity at issue as Alabama man faces execution date

Federal judges heard arguments Wednesday about whether an Alabama inmate had the mental capacity to understand the paperwork setting up his planned execution next week, with a defense lawyer arguing the man's cognitive deficiencies warranted disability assistance.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering an appeal by Willie B. Smith III, who was convicted of a woman's 1991 kidnap and killing. His lawyer said the man has an IQ in the 70s and should have received help under the Americans with Disabilities Act to understand a form related to the selection of an execution method.

Smith is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Oct. 21 in the death of Sharma Ruth Johnson, 22. Prosecutors said Smith abducted Johnson at gunpoint from an ATM in Birmingham, stole $80 from her and then took her to a cemetery where he shot her in the back of the head.

This is Alabama's second attempt this year to carry out Smith's death sentence. The state called off prior execution plans last Feb. 12 after the U.S. Supreme Court maintained an injunction saying he could not be put to death without his pastor present. The reprieve came the same night of his scheduled lethal injection as he waited in a holding cell near the death chamber.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, also known as ADA, prohibits discrimination based on disability.

Smith's attorneys argued a federal judge wrongly dismissed a lawsuit last month involving the claims about his needing assistance under the federal disabilities act. But the state maintained it was the legally correct decision.

Wednesday's oral arguments centered on what, if any, obligations the state had in helping state inmates understand a brief window in which they could change their requested execution method.

“He will be executed by lethal injection in eight days if he does not prevail in this lawsuit,” attorney Spencer Hahn told the appellate panel Wednesday. “Mr. Smith had, and has, cognitive deficiencies such that he could not and can not make the decision to elect a method of execution without reasonable accommodation.”

Lethal injection is the main execution method used in Alabama. But after lawmakers authorized nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method in 2018, the new law gave death row inmates a 30-day window to select nitrogen hypoxia as their execution method.

The Federal Defenders for the Middle District of Alabama, who defend death row inmates but weren't representing Smith at the time, drafted an election form for their clients to request nitrogen. The prison warden later give every death row inmate a copy of the form.

Smith did not turn in a form selecting nitrogen. The state has not developed a procedure for using nitrogen as an execution method, and at least for now is not scheduling executions with nitrogen hypoxia.

In dismissing the lawsuit last month, a judge said that the "form was not required, directed, or sanctioned” by state law and “for the entire month of June 2018, both before and after this form was distributed, Smith had the ability to opt into execution by nitrogen hypoxia through any writing he chose.”

Smith's attorneys in their appeal questioned how an “inmate who has been segregated and locked-down; 23 hours a day for almost 30 years with, at best, an IQ of 72 could have and should have known about a change in Alabama law.”

Attorneys for the state have disputed that Smith is disabled.

The state has argued that the form was not required by state law and Smith never gave any indication that he wanted to request nitrogen.

Smith also had conversation with his then-lawyer in 2018 when the form was distributed, an attorney for the state told the judges.

“The evidence is he talked to his lawyer in June: Nothing,” Alabama solicitor general Edmund G. LaCour told the panel. “He did have access to assistance. It's plain as day."

(source: Associated Press

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

Willie B. Smith case: Alabama says death penalty by nitrogen suffocation not practical at this time

A lawyer representing the State of Alabama told a federal court Wednesday that execution by nitrogen suffocation is not practical at this time.

In a hearing regarding the scheduled Oct. 21 execution of Willie B. Smith, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Charles R. Wilson asked Edmund LaCour, a lawyer for the state, whether Alabama could currently carry out executions by what he termed “nitrogen hypoxia,” an execution through the use of nitrogen suffocation.

An execution using the method, which involves replacing oxygen needed to breathe with nitrogen gas, has never been carried out in the United States. Execution through the use of nitrogen suffocation was approved by the Alabama Legislature in 2018, however, joining Oklahoma and Mississippi as the only other states to allow the practice.

“Is the State of Alabama able to execute Alabama death row inmates by nitrogen hypoxia?” Wilson asked in Wednesday’s virtual hearing.

“At the moment?” LaCour responded. “We do not have a functioning nitrogen hypoxia protocol at the moment. The only practically available method — the only method we’ve used in the last several years — is lethal injection.”

The questioning then turned to the specific case of Willie B. Smith, who is asking the federal court to vacate a ruling that dismissed claims that prison officials violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Smith has an IQ of around 70, according to experts. He claims that he was not provided a reasonable accommodation to understand that he was required to opt into death by nitrogen suffocation during a specific 30-day period.

“Well Mr. Smith is scheduled to be executed on, I believe it’s October the 21st,” Wilson said.

“Yes, 30 years after he murdered Ms. Sharma Ruth Johnson, and he’s scheduled to be executed by lethal injection as provided by the statute,” LaCour responded.

Judge Wilson’s replied without pause: “What if he had filled out the form within the 30-day opt-in window?”

“Then he would’ve opted for nitrogen hypoxia and, by statute, he would be slotted for nitrogen hypoxia execution, which would not be this week because it is not ready within the next 8 days.”

Barring further court action, Willie B. Smith will be executed on Thursday, Oct. 21.

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

Federal judges consider vacating dismissal of death row inmate Willie B. Smith’s disability claim

A 3-judge panel held a hearing Wednesday concerning the case of Willie B. Smith, an intellectually disabled death row inmate scheduled for execution on Oct. 21. Judges from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals are considering whether to vacate a lower court ruling that dismissed Smith’s disability claim on technical grounds.

That claim states that prison officials violated Smith’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act when they did not provide him a reasonable accommodation to allow him to understand he had a 30-day period to opt into execution by nitrogen suffocation.

An execution using the method, which involves replacing oxygen needed to breathe with nitrogen gas, has never been carried out in the United States. Execution through the use of nitrogen suffocation was approved by the Alabama Legislature in 2018. Oklahoma and Mississippi are the only other states that have authorized the use of the method.

Wednesday’s hearing comes after District Court Judge Emily Marks dismissed Smith’s claim on Sept. 24, saying that Smith lacked standing to make his claim.

Lawyers for Smith argued Marks’ ruling “conflates standing with merits.”

Judge Adalberto Jordan said he was “generally sympathetic” to that argument, which he said holds “a fair amount of force.”

Lawyers for Smith argued that until the lower court’s dismissal, the state had agreed that the death row inmate did have standing to make his claim. Judge Marks dismissed Smith’s claim despite any request from the state’s lawyers to do so.

Judge Charles R. Wilson pressed on that issue in the hearing, asking counsel for the state whether the lower court’s ruling was premature.

Edmund LaCour, who represented Alabama, said that Smith had been given sufficient notice to provide evidence regarding standing, a claim Smith’s lawyers dispute.

LaCour also argued that Smith had not clearly expressed that he would opt into nitrogen suffocation if given the chance to do so. Spencer Hahn, one of Smith’s lawyers, however, said that his client had done so. In an email to CBS 42, another member of Smith’s legal team reiterated Smith would opt into the new method if given a fair chance to do so.

“What we are requesting in the case is that Mr. Smith be allowed to elect nitrogen hypoxia as his method of execution,” the email said. “He would do so if given the opportunity, which is why we filed the lawsuit in the first place.”

Given that Smith’s execution is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 21, his lawyers have asked that a decision in the case be expedited.

(source for both: WIAT news)

LOUISIANA:

'Strong likelihood' DA will seek death penalty for accused killer Matthew Mire

A state prosecutor said there is a "strong likelihood" his office will pursue the death penalty against a man accused in a multi-parish shooting spree that killed 2 people over the weekend, including a state trooper.

Ricky Babin is the district attorney in Ascension Parish, where both killings happened Saturday morning. Matthew Mire, 31, is accused of ambushing Trooper Adam Gaubert before opening fire on 2 people inside a home on Dutton Road.

Investigators believe Mire fatally shot Gaubert inside his police unit before killing a 2nd person, Pamela Adair.

"A young lady was murdered in my parish that was guilty of nothing but being home at the time," Babin said.

While no decision has been made yet, Babin told WBRZ that the severity of the crimes make pursuing the death penalty a strong possibility.

"That's a likelihood," Babin said. "I haven't read the report... but that's a strong likelihood."

Mire is being held in the East Baton Rouge jail after he was captured near Hoo Shoo Too Road late Saturday night. He is facing charges in 3 parishes, including Livingston Parish, for the crime spree that unfolded earlier that same morning.

Babin said having so many agencies involved in the case would typically slow down the trial process, but he expects things to move quickly because of the gravity of the allegations.

(source: KTBS news)

MISSOURI:

The 2007 search for a missing Missouri girl that ended with death sentences

When Colleen Munson came home from her overnight shift at work on November 3, 2007 she could not find her 9-year-old daughter Rowan Ford anywhere. She asked the girl’s stepfather David Spears about where her daughter may be. He told her that she stayed at a friend’s house.

After searching the entire neighborhood Colleen still could not find her daughter. Hours tick by with no news of Rowan. So, a frantic Colleen dials 9-1-1 to report her daughter missing.

Newton County Sheriff Chris Jennings took on the case. They sent officers to assist with the search.

A person of interest:

However, officers couldn’t find any sign of Rowan. So, they turned their attention to the person who saw her last, Rowan’s stepfather. It didn’t take long for authorities to become suspicious of Spears.

“He didn’t report her missing until 8 or 10 hours after she was gone, which we thought was extremely strange,” said Jennings. “His story changed several times. We caught him in several lies.”

Police also have another person of interest, Christopher Collings.

Spears had been friends with Collings for many years and Collings lived with Spears’ family for several months during the summer and fall of 2007.

According to the PC statement Collings slept in the basement, and Rowan referred to him as “Uncle Chris.” In late October of 2007, Collings moved to his family’s farm and lived in a travel trailer on the property located in Wheaton, Missouri, in Barry County.

Authorities spoke with Nathan Mahurin a mutual friend of Collings and Spears about the night before Rowan disappeared. According to Mahurin, the three men met at a farm where they were working.

They went to a liquor store to buy 2 or 3 6-packs of malt liquor and then went to Spears’ home to play pool and drink. At 8:30 p.m., Colleen left for work and left Rowan in Spears’ care. The men continued to drink after purchasing more alcohol.

Later that evening, Collings asked Mahurin to drive him home. Mahurin and Collings talked Spears into going with them, leaving Rowan home alone, asleep on the floor in her bedroom. On the way to Collings’ trailer, the men stopped to buy more alcohol.

At Collings’ trailer, they continued to drink and smoked marijuana. After an hour, Mahurin and Spears left to go home. Mahurin decided to take the back roads instead of the direct highway route to Spears’ house because he was intoxicated and he did not want to get stopped by the police. Mahurin dropped off Spears and returned home by midnight.

Colleen returned home from her overnight work shift at 9:00 a.m. After searching the house, Colleen woke Spears and asked him where Rowan was. Spears told Colleen that Rowan was staying with a friend, but he could not identify the friend.

Colleen wanted to call the police right away but Spears insisted Rowan was at friends.

On November 4th, Newton County deputies spoke with Collings in the parking lot of a local restaurant. Collings gave the deputies the same account Mahurin did about their activities that evening but omitted that they had smoked marijuana.

Collings told the deputies he stayed home and went to sleep after Mahurin and Spears left. Collings denied speaking to Spears since he left and claimed he was unaware Rowan was missing until the police spoke to him.

On November 5th, the FBI became involved in the investigation and community members continued to search for Rowan as well.

While Newton County deputies continued to interview Spears, FBI technicians seized and searched Spears’ pickup truck and a vehicle Spears’ mother said she loaned Spears after Mahurin dropped him off on the night Rowan disappeared.

In the meantime, Newton County deputies approached Collings at work and requested he answer more questions. Collings agreed and drove himself to the sheriff’s department.

Collings gave a similar statement to the one he had given the day before. He also agreed to submit to a polygraph test and a Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA).

Collings continued to deny any knowledge of Rowan’s disappearance and offered to aid in the search.

Later that afternoon, Wheaton Chief of Police Clinton Clark was on routine patrol in Wheaton. Collings and Chief Clark had a relationship spanning 17 years.

Collings flagged down Chief Clark, told him that Rowan was missing, and he was trying to find her. Chief Clark would describe Collings as “kind of excited” and “not his normal self.”

After speaking to Collings, Chief Clark notified the FBI that Collings contacted him about Rowan’s disappearance. Clark believed Collings knew something about Rowan’s disappearance and offered his help in the investigation. The FBI encouraged him to continue talking with Collings.

A body is found

On November 9th a mother’s worse fear was made a reality. Rowan’s body was discovered in Fox Cave.

“It’s not really a cave in the sense of what you and I think of a cave,” said Jennings. “It’s more like a sinkhole.”

The sinkhole was twenty to thirty feet from the road in a heavily wooded area. Rowan was found with only one sock on.

It didn’t take investigators long to realize foul play was involved.

“I wasn’t there when the body was discovered, but I don’t think anyone had any question that it was a homicide,” said Jennings.

Rowan’s mother describes the moment when she found out her daughter was gone.

Once Rowan was found, Collings revealed to investigators what really happened that night.

At the time Johnny Cox was the Barry County Prosecutor and presented Collings confession to the judge.

According to the autopsy report revealed Rowan died from strangulation.

Collings was charged with one count of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of forcible rape, and 1 count of statutory rape.

Collings would later file a motion to suppress, seeking to exclude evidence of all statements taken from him by law enforcement agents throughout the entire investigation and all evidence obtained from the searches of his body, pickup truck, trailer, and property.

Collings was overruled.

The jury would find Collings guilty of the murder of Rowan Ford.

In 2012, Collings would be convicted of 1st-degree murder and received the death penalty.

As for Spears, he would plead guilty to child endangerment and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The case of Rowan Ford not only impacted the lives of her family and friends, but also the investigators who worked to bring her home.

“I still carry her picture with me,” said Jennings. “I’ve worked hundreds of homicides and this one will always stay with me.”

(source: Fox News)

ARIZONA:

Arizona was really hoping to execute a few guys by now, but ...Opinion: We have all the proof we need to abolish the death penalty, but we keep it anyway. Then we botch the executions.

In all the hubbub over vaccines and sham audits and homophobic, misogynistic football coach emails, it’s gone unnoticed that the state of Arizona hasn’t killed anyone lately.

The state planned to execute convicted murderer Frank Atwood last month.

And then to execute death row inmate Clarence Dixon this month.

But … we botched it. Again.

There hasn’t been an execution in Arizona since 2014, when Joseph Wood was injected 15 times with an experimental lethal drug cocktail and spent nearly two hours heaving and gasping before he died.

Over the summer, when it must have seemed like a good campaign ploy for his U.S. Senate campaign, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich tried to speed up the executions for Atwood and Dixon, but mismanaged the handling of the death-dealing drug the state hoped to use and his plans were quashed by the Arizona Supreme Court.

How I know we don't care? 2 words: Ray Krone

Since then, we’ve heard nothing.

Likewise, in a move that didn’t get a lot of attention, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered a moratorium on federal executions. Garland did this because he is a good man and believes (naively perhaps) that we should be bothered by the fact that we occasionally condemn an innocent person to death.

That’s a nice thought, but the fact is it doesn’t seem to bother us at all.

How do we know this?

Two words: Ray Krone.

Back in 1992, Krone was convicted in Arizona of murdering 35-year-old Kim Ancona. He was called the “Snaggletooth Killer” owing to dental problems that led to his conviction. Prosecutors said a teeth impression on the victim matched Krone.

Krone’s attorneys produced experts saying it wasn’t so.

It didn’t matter. Krone was convicted and got the death penalty.

He's the best argument against execution

He spent 10 years waiting to die. In 2002, however, DNA testing not only proved that Krone wasn’t the killer but it identified who was.

Krone was released from prison and now works to correct the kind of injustice that led to the state wanting to kill him.

He wrote an essay for The Arizona Republic once under the headline, “I’m the best argument against the death penalty.”

Which is true.

Those who oppose the death penalty hoped the Krone case – and he is not alone – would end any argument about the pros and cons of capital punishment. After all, it proves that we occasionally convict an innocent person, and even sometimes sentence that person to death.

Still, we weren’t convinced.

Then there's Debra Jean Milke

The most recent death penalty inmate to be released in Arizona was Debra Jean Milke, who spent 23 years on death row in connection with the murder of her small son.

The case against her, based almost solely on a supposed confession heard by no one but the officer who testified against her, and who had proven not always to be the most trustworthy witness, was tossed by the courts.

If Milke had been executed and later exonerated would that have swung the pendulum permanently against the death penalty?

No.

Organizations like the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty document the number of condemned inmates who were later found to have been wrongly convicted and released, and tell the stories of those whom they believe were wrongly executed.

There are a lot of those stories.

Better to let 10 guilty men go free than ... ?

Still, we have the death penalty.

The American legal system has its roots in British Common Law. That’s where we got what is called “Blackstone’s Ratio,” the much-altered proverb that goes something like: It’s better to let 10 guilty men go free than to convict an innocent one.

It’s a nice thought.

But that’s all it is.

(source: Opinion; EJ Montini, The Arizona Republic)

CALIFORNIA:

These 16 condemned Inland inmates have been transferred off death row

Death row housing change

These are the California death row inmates from Riverside and San Bernardino counties who are participating in the Condemned Inmate Transfer Pilot Program. The men were transferred from San Quentin State Prison to the current facility listed. The women were transferred from death row housing at Central California Women’s Facility to that facility’s general population housing.

Joseph R. Avila

RJ Donovan Correctional Facility, San Diego. Stabbed to death Robert Navarro Jr. and Raul Moncada during an argument over a woman in 1991 in Riverside.

Raymond A. Barrera

Kern Valley State Prison. Killed gang rivals Ruben “Toker” Zavala, Juan “Spooks” Perez and Jose “Flaco” Venegas in 2013 in San Jacinto.

Michael R. Burgener

Salinas Valley State Prison. Burgener killed William Arias, a convenience store clerk, in a robbery that netted $50 on Halloween 1980 in Riverside.

Cynthia Coffman

Central California Women’s Facility, Chowchilla. Along with James Marlow, kidnapped and murdered Corinna Novis in Redlands in 1986. They were also convicted of a 2nd murder.

Carlos Contreras

RJ Donovan. Along with Daniel Cervantes, shot Daniel Kuzawa to death in Thermal 2008. He was found with his wrists and neck bound by an electrical cable.

Earl Ellis Green

Salinas Valley. Shot Riverside police Officer Ryan Bonaminio to death in Fairmount Park in Riverside in 2010.

Christopher G. Jasso

California Correctional Institution, Tehachapi. Shot cab driver Carlos Rafael Cuellar Cardona during a robbery in 2003 in Indio.

Jose L. Leon

California Correctional Institution. Stabbed to death his ex-girlfriend’s 13-year-old brother, Austin Perez, and her grandmother, Hope Ragland, in Corona in 2003.

Belinda Magana

CCWF. Along with boyfriend Naresh Narine, tortured her 2-year-old son until he died in Corona in 2009.

Luis A. Mendoza

California Correctional Institution. Arranged the killings of 4 gang members, brothers Gilbert and Johnny Agudo and cousins Marcelino and Anthony Luna, in San Bernardino in 2000 in the so-called Dead Presidents case.

Joseph M. Montes

RJ Donovan. Killed Mark Walker, a teenager who was kidnapped so that the defendants could take his car and get to a birthday party, in Corona in 1994.

Brooke Rottiers

CCWF. Along with two men, killed 2 day laborers during a 2006 robbery in Corona.

Gilbert Bernard Sanchez

California Correctional Institution. Assaulted, robbed and strangled bakery worker Sylvia Galindo in Fontana in 2001.

Janeen Snyder

CCWF. Along with boyfriend Michael F. Thornton, killed high school sophomore Michelle Curran in Rubidoux in 2001, leaving her body in a horse trailer.

James A. Thompson

California State Prison Corcoran. Killed developmentally disabled man Ronald Gitmed in Canyon Lake in 1991.

Jack E. Wiliams

Centinela State Prison. Moreno Valley resident instructed gang members to shoot anyone who resisted their carjacking attempts, leading to the death of motorist Yvonne Los, an Air Force nurse and mother of 2, in 1993.

(source: Press-Enterprise)

USA:

Dylann Roof’s request to reconsider recusal is denied

Dylann Roof's chances for a new appellate hearing continue to dwindle, with a court refusing to reconsider recusing itself from his appeal over his death sentence and conviction in the 2015 racist slayings of nine members of a Black South Carolina congregation.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the decision on Tuesday.

All of the judges from the 4th Circuit, which covers South Carolina, have recused themselves from hearing Roof’s case. No explicit reason was given in a May notice, although one of the judges, Jay Richardson, prosecuted Roof’s case as an assistant U.S. attorney in 2017, when Roof became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime.

Authorities have said Roof opened fire during the closing prayer of a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, raining down dozens of bullets on those assembled. He was 21 at the time.

Roof’s attorneys wanted the judges who opted to sit out his case to reinstate themselves to consider his petition for a new hearing. Without that move, or changing a court rule prohibiting judges visiting from other circuits from considering such requests, Roof’s lawyers wrote, “no judges exist to consider” his rehearing petition, depriving him of “a critical level of appellate review.”

The court, citing its recusal, had denied Roof’s request for a new hearing and also ruled against allowing a full court of substitute judges from other circuits to consider his case.

In May, a panel composed of judges from other appellate circuits heard Roof’s appeal, subsequently unanimously upholding his conviction and death sentence and issuing a scathing rebuke of Roof’s crimes, which the judges wrote "qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose.”

Roof’s lawyers have argued he was wrongly allowed to represent himself during sentencing. Roof, his attorneys have said, successfully prevented jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health, “under the delusion” that “he would be rescued from prison by white-nationalists — but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental-impairments out of the public record.”

According to court documents filed in another federal case, the FBI heard two neo-Nazi group members talk about trying to free Roof from the maximum-security prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he is an inmate, including details on the number of guards present and how a shootout would happen.

If unsuccessful in his direct appeal, Roof could file what’s known as a 2255 appeal, a request that the trial court review the constitutionality of his conviction and sentence. He could also petition the U.S. Supreme Court or seek a presidential pardon.

(source: mercedsunstar.com)

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

Biden betrays his promise on the death penalty by pushing for Boston Marathon bomber’s execution----If Biden meant what he said, neither he nor the Justice Department can pick and choose exceptions

The US Supreme Court heard argument from the Biden administration in support of reinstating the death sentence of Dzhokar Tzarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber, who was 19 years old when he and his 28-year-old brother Tamerlan committed the horrific attack that killed 3 people.

The argument before the Supreme Court on Wednesday hinged on whether the trial court improperly excluded evidence of his older brother’s influence and whether Tsarnaev was prejudiced by global publicity. The conservative majority of the court in its questioning appeared, not surprisingly, to be sympathetic to the Biden administration’s position in favour of execution. A critical question is why an administration whose president declared his opposition to capital punishment is pressing for Tzarnaev to be killed rather than spend the rest of his life in a supermax prison

The United States is at an inflection point with respect to capital punishment. In 2020, the United States remained, for the 12th consecutive year, the only country in the region to carry out executions. The number of executions decreased to 17, the lowest number since 1991. Only 18 new death sentences were imposed in 2020, dropping by almost 1/2 from 2019.

While the death penalty used to be remarkably popular, recent polls have shown significant shifts. In 1994, the Gallup poll found that fully 80 per cent of Americans supported the death penalty.

By 2020, that number had dropped to 55 %, and when asked whether they favoured life imprisonment without parole over capital punishment, a 2019 Gallup Poll showed 60 % of respondents were in favor of life without parole and only 36 % in favor of the death sentence.

Joe Biden was the 1st president elected who was openly opposed to capital punishment. His campaign website informed voters: “Because we cannot ensure we get death penalty cases right every time, Biden will work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example.”

So much for the good news. The fact is that capital punishment remains a squalid tool of social control, and that it reinforces the darkest of America’s founding biases.

Death row inmates in the US are still predominantly people of colour, with 3 times as many Black people awaiting execution as white inmates. Those found guilty of killing white victims are 17 times more likely to receive the death penalty than those whose alleged victims were Black. Identification by largely white juries with white defendants and white victims remains the undeniable norm.

Meanwhile, as deinstitutionalization puts more and more vulnerable people suffering mental illness on the streets, the death penalty is being administered to those with significant cognitive and mental problems.

Last week, despite the pleas of Pope Francis, the Supreme Court declined to postpone the execution of Eugene Johnson. He had demonstrable lifelong severe cognitive impairment; a tumor that destroyed an additional 20 per cent of his brain mass, his IQ was in the 67-77 range (classified as significant to borderline mental retardation), and his communication skills were likened to those of a 5-year-old.

The Missouri Supreme Court ignored significant data showing both clear clinical and statutory definitions of intellectual disability, and instead substituted its judgment that Johnson was able “to plan, strategize, and problem solve – contrary to a finding of substantial subaverage intelligence.”

The Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits executing intellectually disabled people. This Supreme Court has not only permitted such executions to proceed, it has used the “shadow docket” of unsigned orders without plenary hearings to allow executions generally within 24 hours of receiving petitions for automatic stays, both in Johnson’s case and in a number of the 13 federal executions at the end of the Trump administration.

It is a court’s obligation to provide reasoned judgments when cases raise significant constitutional issues. The current ultra-conservative majority on the US Supreme Court has will not only refuse to stop executions; it will not even state its reasons. With Trump’s three appointees, it is likely to proceed in this fashion for a long time.

Biden and his Department of Justice could make a difference, at least with respect to the 45 prisoners who remain on federal death row, by commuting their sentences. The Justice Department could also express its views on constitutional issues with respect to state executions.

California has the largest death row in the country; its governor, Gavin Newsom, could make a difference there by commuting 747 capital sentences, thereby shrinking the US’ death row population by nearly nearly a third with a stroke of a pen. But none of this has happened, and recent developments are not promising.

The Justice Department has ordered a moratorium on federal executions, but it has now challenged the First Circuit Court of Appeals’s decision to vacate the Tsarnaev death sentence. It has also filed a brief in support of maintaining the federal death sentence of Dylan Roof, the Charlotte church mass shooter.

Both death sentences are highly likely to be affirmed by the Supreme Court. To be sure, these men’s crimes were heinous – but the death penalty is a system, characterised by randomness, racism, error and moral indefensibility.

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

The ‘stepchild of lynching’: How the death penalty targets Black people----Sites of historic lynchings closely mirror present day executions of Black people, writes Josh Marcus

In 1904, a violent mob set upon the jail in the city of Huntsville, Alabama, occupying the 1st floor and demanding the jailors release Horace Maples, a Black man accused of killing an elderly white farmer named John Waldrop. When police refused, the crowd set fire to the jail to smoke him out.

Armed men kept the fire department from putting out the blaze. A sheriff eventually made Maples jump out of the second-floor window into the throng of people below, estimated to be about 2,000 people strong. The lynch mob soon had a rope around Maples’s neck, and dragged him onto the county courthouse lawn.

Waldrop’s son confronted the panicked man. Maples admitted to the murder, though it’s hard to imagine a confession more forced. He was strung over a nearby tree. The crowd filled his body with bullets, then took his fingers and clothing as souvenirs.

7 alleged members of the mob later went on trial, and all were acquitted. A year after Horace Maples was lynched, the local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy installed a monument to Confederate soldiers in front of the courthouse, a reminder of just what justice meant in Huntsville for a Black man in 1904. It was replaced in the 1960s with a replica, during the height of the civil rights movement.

Lynchings may no longer terrorise the South in such great numbers, but America has never stopped feeding Black people through a system of rough justice that often uses public, exceptional violence to end their lives.

In the present day, the death penalty singles out people of colour by virtually every measure. More than just a passing similarity, though, the history of capital punishment in the US is tightly bound up with the rope and tree. Both are among America’s “peculiar” institutions.

Black people are vastly over-represented on death row. The US Black population is about 13 per cent in America, according to census data, while death row’s Black population was almost triple that, as of this spring. Those who kill white people are 17 times more likely to get the death penalty than those who kill Black people, according to a landmark 2020 study. Meanwhile, people of colour made up 63.8 per cent of modern wrongful death sentences, according to one analysis.

Beginning with the first executions that occurred in British colonies in North America to the present, capital punishment has always been applied unevenly, according to Elisabeth Semel, a law professor who heads University of California Berkeley’s Death Penalty Clinic.

“From its inception, in this country, the death penalty and racism were inseparable,” she told The Independent. “That history is defining. It just is defining.”

Disparities are found in nearly every facet of the process, in every location in the country that still practices the death penalty, she added: who gets accused of capital crimes; who gets good legal representation; who gets sentenced to death; and who is able to appeal the epidemic of wrongful convictions. Juan Melendez, 70, believes racism played a major role in sending him to Florida’s death row for a murder he didn’t commit. He was imprisoned for 17 years before being exonerated in 2002, after it was shown prosecutors witheld exculpatory evidence of another man confessing.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in his family’s native Puerto Rico, Juan went back to the US looking for adventure and opportunity when he turned 18 and went to work in American fruit fields on an agricultural visa programme.

“I was one of them looking for an American dream, and it turned out to be an American nightmare,” he said.

In 1983, he was accused of the gruesome murder of a white man, Delbert Baker, in a Florida cosmetology school. His trial lasted a week, and he had neither the money to hire a lawyer nor the English skills to know what was happening in the courtroom.

At first, he thought the legal system might catch its error and he would go free. Then the jury, 11 out of 12 of whom were white, started being shown pictures of the crime scene, where Delbert Baker lay, throat slashed, in a pool of his own blood.

“I knew right there and then that i was in big, big, big trouble. I got scared,” he said. “If they would’ve had the chance right there and then, I would’ve been hanged and executed.”

One of the jurors reportedly said that a photo of Juan, where he had a large afro, was what convinced her to find him guilty. He eventually learned English on death row. Juan now travels the country speaking with Witness to Innocence, an exoneree-led criminal justice advocacy group.

It’s no surprise the death penalty comes down so heavily on Black and brown people. It shares its roots with lynching, an explicit form of racial violence.

Before the Civil War, Black people were executed for a litany of crimes that elicited only minor punishment for whites. Wherever US armed forces expanded, whether it was against the Mexican borderlands or the indigenous communities of the Midwest plains, mass executions followed.

Following the end of the Reconstruction period, which saw federal troops occupy the former Confederate states and enforce new legal and constitutional protections for Black people, lynching surged in the late 1800s, until it became all but a daily occurrence across America.

Lynchings sometimes involved government officials like local law enforcement, and government officials began arguing for capital punishment as an alternative. It would still satiate the public’s appetite for violence against Black people, but under the auspices of the law, which at the time allowed for explicit racial segregation in all areas of life. Public legal hangings continued well into the 20th century.

In 1906, for example, US President Theodore Roosevelt criticised the “epidemic of lynching and mob violence” while perpetuating the most central lie its mob told themseves, that Black men were uniquely violent, sexual criminals.

He called for “even-handed justice” and treating rape as a capital crime, while noting, “The greatest existing cause of lynching is the perpetration, especially by Black men, of the hideous crime of rape,” Mr Roosevelt.

During the 1919 “Red Summer,” local soldiers and vigilantes killed 200 or more Black people in Phillips County, Arkansas, many of them African-American soldiers returning from World War I, who had been meeting hoping to organise for better pay for sharecroppers. None of the white people who first fired at the meeting, triggering a gunfight, were prosecuted, but dozens of Black men were charged with murder. Officials headed off a second mob by promising to execute the Black men who had survived the first.

Eventually, lynchings faded, but the dynamics of them – white outrage, swift judgement, Black death – remained. Between 1945 and 1965, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Tennessee, convicted a combined 823 Black men of rape, and executed 13 % of them. In that same period, only 442 white men were convicted and just 2 were % killed.

Bryan Stevenson, the renowned capital defense attorney and Equal Justice Initiative founder, has called the death penalty the “stepchild of lynching”.

In the present, states of the former Confederacy carry out 80 per cent of all current day executions, and data visualisations show the sites of historic lynchings closely mirror present day executions of Black people. The proportion of people of colour on death row has been increasing since the 1980s.

Little by little, criminal justice advocates have been able to make the present-day legal system reckon with the worst excesses of these overwhelming historic trends. In 2003, Illinois governor George Ryan granted clemency to the 163 men and women on the state’s death row, citing disproportionate punishments and growing evidence Chicago police commander John Burge and his lieutenants tortured more than 100 Black suspects into giving false confessions.

“Race plays a huge role in all of it,” Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, of the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project, said. “John Burge and his subordinates were by and large doing this to young Black men, the vast majority. That was kind of just how they worked. One of the things that they thought was that if they were in certain neighborhoods, the thought was, ‘Well, these guys are probably in gangs and should be off the street anywho, what does it matter if we get the wrong one?’”

Still, given the lengthy time period of most capital cases, which regularly stretch across multiple decades, many such flagrant abuses of the system are influencing ongoing death sentences. In the controversial case of Julius Jones, a Black man who argues he was wrongly convicted as a teenager for the 1999 murder of a white businessman in the Oklahoma suburbs, a juror reportedly said the trial was a “waste of time” and that police should “just take the n****r out and shoot him behind the jail”, before being allowed to remain on the case.

Other instances of bias are more subtle, though no less influential.

Cases often rest on eye-witness testimony, which has been shown scientifically to be unreliable, and which is particularly ineffective when people attempt to identify others outside of their ethnic group.

Prosecutors are allowed to screen potential jurors to make sure they are, in the strange argot of capital punishment, “death-qualified” – that is, to serve in a capital case, jurors must not be fundamentally opposed to the death penalty. Public support for the death penalty has been declining for decades to near record lows, yet those more likely support the death penalty, who tend to skew white and conservative, end up most likely to be weighing the life and death of the people of colour most likely to be executed.

In the face of such obstacles, however, the Supreme Court has largely barred systemic analysis of the racism death penalty in legal cases. For a time, following the 1972 Furman decision, the death penalty was considered unconstitutional “cruel and unusual” punishment under the Eighth Amendment, with justices arguing it was both applied arbitrarily and discriminatorily. However, a decision only a decade later changed all that.

In the 1987 case McCleskey v. Kemp, the high court rejected a suit challenging the death penalty on the grounds it was applied unequally in Georgia, backed up by the groundbreaking Baldus study showing just how persistent racial disparities were in capital cases.

The court said it accepted the findings of the study, but rejected the overall notion of the lawsuit, that systemic bias meant death penalty convictions were unconstitional, according to Ms Semel, the Berkeley law professor. This largely shut the door to large-scale interrogations of official action regularly seen in other areas of law like housing or affirmative action policy.

“If defendants can come in and say the death is discrimination, the next thing you know, they’ll be saying that the way in which robbery cases are conducted is discriminatory,” she said, explaining the majority’s thinking. “They’re going to be coming in saying the way drug cases are conducted is discriminatory, which in fact they did. The decision with McCleskey proved to be enormous.”

At the time, Justice William Brennan dissented that the court seemed to be acting from a “fear of too much justice”. When he retired, Lewis Powell, author of the Court’s majority opinion, said he regretted casting his vote in the case.

There are some signs that America is leaving behind the death penalty, at least as the historic lynching-adjacent creature it has been for the last two-and-half centuries. Joe Biden is the first sitting president to oppose the death penalty, though he hasn’t taken any steps besides pausing federal executions to effectuate that goal. Earlier this year, Virginia, one of the country’s most prolific executioners of Black people, became the first Southern state to abolish the death penalty. In a strange twist in the history of racial violence, now men accused of hate crimes are being put to death, rather than the executions themselves being hate crimes. The men accused of carrying out the 2015 shooting at a Black church in Charleston and the mass killing of Asian-American women in Georgia this March are both facing the death penalty. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter, is the 1st person in the US ever sentenced to death for a federal hate crime.

Still, the US is far from exercising the death penalty, or vestiges of hate violence, from the justice system. After a series of botched killings, Oklahoma plans to resume executions after a six-year pause. Julius Jones is scheduled to be one of the first men killed. After more than 2 decades, Arizona plans to resume executions via gas. It has purchased ingredients to make hydrogen cyanide gas, the chemical agent used in the Nazi gas chambers.

The history of the death penalty is ongoing then. More than 2,500 people are on death row right now.

One place has certainly changed, though. In 2020, Huntsville, Alabama, officials decided to relocate the Confederate monument from the courthouse lawn where Horace Maples was lynched, amid the year’s historic racial justice protests.

It is no longer a symbol of what justice is supposed to look like. The statue has a new home: it stands among the ghosts of Confederate soldiers at the local cemetery.

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.

(source for both: The Independent)

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Supreme Court appears likely to side with the Biden administration and restore the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber

•The Supreme Court heard arguments on whether to reinstate the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

•A lower court dismissed Tsarnaev's death sentence last year.

•The Biden administration has asked the Supreme Court to reverse that decision.

In one of the most high-profile cases this term, the Supreme Court on Wednesday seems likely to side with the Biden administration and reinstate the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The case comes after President Donald Trump's Justice Department, which restarted federal executions after a 17-year pause, urged the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision that threw out Tsarnaev's death sentence last year.

The Biden administration has asked the Supreme Court to do the same, writing in a brief that Tsarnaev is the "most notorious domestic terrorist in recent American history."

This comes despite President Joe Biden's campaign pledge to end capital punishment and pressure from some Democrats and civil rights organizations to abolish the practice.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has also imposed a moratorium on federal executions, which Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett brought up on Wednesday, questioning the reasoning behind the DOJ's request.

"The administration continues to believe the jury imposed a sound verdict and the court of appeals was wrong to upset that verdict," Eric Feigin, the Department of Justice's deputy solicitor general, responded.

"What we are asking here is that the sound judgment ... that he warrants capital punishment for his personal acts in murdering and maiming scores of innocents, and along with his brother, hundreds of innocents at the finish line of the Boston Marathon should be respected," he added.

The court appeared divided along ideological lines, as the three liberals strongly scrutinized the government's position, whereas the 6 conservatives did not.

The case dates back to 2013, when Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, carried out the infamous bombings that killed three people and injured hundreds. Tamerlan died in a shootout with the police days afterward.

2 years later, a jury convicted Tsarnaev and sentenced him to death. But in July 2020, the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed his death sentence, ruling that the district judge who presided over his case in 2015 failed to properly screen the jurors' media exposure of the high-profile attack before the trial, leaving room for potential bias against Tsarnaev.

The appeals court also ruled that the district judge improperly left out evidence of Tamerlan's previous crimes that could have affected the jury's decision. Tamerlan was allegedly involved in 3 murders 2 years before the Boston Marathon bombings.

Tsarnaev's lawyer on Wednesday said the district judge violated the Eighth Amendment by leaving out that evidence, which may have resulted in a lighter sentence, such as life in prison, for Tsarnaev.

"This is powerful mitigating evidence that showed that Dzhokhar was indoctrinated at the instigation of his brother," attorney Ginger Anders told the Supreme Court.

Democratic-appointed Justice Elena Kagan appeared to embrace that position, saying the district judge refused "to admit evidence of a gruesome murderous crime."

Kagan asked the DOJ's lawyer: "Isn't this a classic case in which the evidence understood one way is highly relevant" to a jury's decision?

"This investigation had hit the end of the road," Feigin replied, adding "there was no way to figure out what happened" regarding Tamerlan's previous alleged crime.

The court's GOP-appointed justices seemed to add to that point. Justice Samuel Alito said that "evidence is inadmissible many times over in a regular trial." Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the district judge has "a gatekeeping role" on evidence.

The justices will hand down their ruling on the case, United States v. Tsarnaev, by the end of June. If the justices reinstate Tsarnaev's death sentence, it's still unclear whether he will be executed, given Biden's public opposition to the death penalty.

Tsarnaev, 28, is being held in federal prison in Florence, Colorado.

(source: Yahoo News)

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

Boston Bomber case: Kavanaugh, Kagan clash in rare testy exchange over mitigating evidence----Kavanaugh criticized liberal justice's line of questioning, prompting Kagan to fire back

Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Elena Kagan clashed in a rare testy exchange between justices on the bench Wednesday as the Supreme Court considered whether an appeals court was justified in overturning Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence.

Tsarnaev was sentenced to death for his role in the 2013 bombings, which he carried out along with his brother Tamerlan, who died while attempting to flee the police shortly after the attack. The district court's 2015 death sentence was overturned by an appeals court over alleged improper handling of the jury's media consumption and the court's exclusion of allegedly mitigating evidence during the sentencing phase.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Kagan grilled government lawyer Eric Feigin specifically about mitigating evidence the defense was not allowed to introduce: that Tamerlan may have been involved in a jihad-related triple-murder two years before the Boston Bombing. This evidence was relevant, the defense said, because it bolstered its argument that Dzhokhar would not have committed the bombing if it weren't for his domineering older brother's influence.

The government and district court argued that the evidence on those murders was not particularly strong. But Kagan asked Feigin to "assume" that the evidence was strong: What should the district court have done then? she asked.

SUPREME COURT CONSIDERS REINSTATING DEATH PENALTY FOR BOSTON BOMBER

"Your entire case rests on the notion that the evidence just wasn't strong enough," Kagan said. "How is it the job of the district court to evaluate, much less decide that question?"

But later in the argument Kavanaugh appeared to criticize his colleagues for wanting to assume the evidence that Tamerlan was involved in the triple-murder was strong. The district court's main reason for leaving that evidence out was that it was weak, Kavanaugh said, so it did not make much sense to approach the case that way.

Kagan shot back: "The premise was assumed away because that was the role of the jury."

It was a rare moment of tension on the normally collegial Supreme Court. Even if the justices are taking very different approaches to a case they almost always avoid displays that would appear critical of their colleagues.

Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts, meanwhile, spent the second half of the Wednesday argument lobbing tough questions at Tsarnaev's attorney Ginger Anders.

Roberts asked whether allowing for consideration of the murders would have tipped off an unnecessary "mini-trial" on a question where there is no reliably available answer.

"It isn't a question of who do you believe -- they're both dead and they're not there," Roberts said.

"This was the mitigation case. I don't think this could have been an improper mini-trial here," Anders responded, emphasizing that the mitigating evidence of the murders was essentially the defense's entire case. "It was the trial."

The case is likely to be decided no later than June of 2022, when the Supreme Court's current term ends.

(source: Fox News)

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

A prayer for the death of the death penalty

On Sept. 8, 2021, the United States Supreme Court took the unusual step of staying Texas’ execution of John Ramirez, a convicted murderer. The question the court has decided to consider is a narrow one. Notably, the question is not whether the execution should take place.

Instead, the only question is whether Texas may constitutionally deny Ramirez’s plea that his pastor, a Baptist minister, pray out loud and place his hands on Ramirez at the moment of execution. That question may be narrow, but it speaks broadly to our continued embrace of our national sin of capital punishment, and it sheds a not very flattering light on white evangelicals who claim to worship a crucified Christ, yet who disproportionately support the state’s right to kill without mercy.

Capital punishment in America is inherently unjust

While arguments rage in certain circles about the moral and ethical viability of the death penalty, there can be no reasonable debate on one crucial point: As a nation, we have murdered scores of wholly innocent people, all under the sanction of the law and in the name of “justice.” In this regard, the facts simply do not lie, no matter how much capital punishment proponents wish that they would.

“As a nation, we have murdered scores of wholly innocent people, all under the sanction of the law and in the name of ‘justice.’”

As tabulated by the Death Penalty Information Center, 185 Death Row inmates have been exonerated prior to their scheduled execution, and it bears stressing that such exonerations were not, in all cases, simply a question of finding an existence of reasonable doubt. Instead, in at least 28 known cases, later-tested DNA evidence has conclusively eliminated the man convicted and sentenced to death as the perpetrator of the crime. The question is not whether we have killed innocent death row inmates. The only question is how many.

A shameful example is offered by the case of Claude Jones, who was executed in Texas in 2000 for the 1989 killing of a liquor store clerk. He had been tied to the scene of the crime by a single hair — a hair that the prosecutors convinced the jury had come from Jones. It hadn’t. While DNA tests were sought as a part of a last-minute stay request, that stay was denied by then-Gov. George Bush. As a result, such tests were not performed until 2010, a decade after Jones was killed by the state of Texas. They conclusively proved that the hair did not come from Jones but was, instead, from the victim. Jones had not killed an innocent man. Texas had.

The injustices inherent in the death penalty are accentuated by a very ugly truth. Often, the determinative factor in a jury’s choice between life and death turns more on the color of the accused person’s skin than on any other single factor. That chilling truth has been repeatedly demonstrated, perhaps nowhere more clearly than in a pair of studies by University of Iowa Professor David Baldus in the 1980s and 1990s, who determined that, in America, Black persons are 38% more likely to be sentenced to death based solely on their race.

Combined with the fact of the death penalty’s known “error rate,” this means that it is exceedingly likely that we have, as a nation, executed dozens if not hundreds of innocent persons solely for the crime of being Black. This horrifying truth perhaps explains the wide gap in white and Black Christian views on the death penalty, with one 2014 study finding 59% support for capital punishment among white evangelicals but only 25% support among Black Protestants. The fact that white evangelicals do not share their Black brothers and sisters’ concern for the sanctity of Black lives is simply one of the many sickening truths laid bare by the death penalty.

Interestingly, while pro-death-penalty Christians often avoid Jesus altogether and resort, instead, to a full-throated endorsement of the “eye for an eye” passages of Mosaic law to justify their position, they do so without realizing that the travesty of “justice” embodied by the death penalty in today’s American legal system bears no resemblance whatsoever to its Old Testament ancestor. Under that system, no execution could be had absent two direct eyewitnesses to the crime itself. (See Numbers 35:30 and Deuteronomy 12:6). The extent to which this requirement was to be rigorously enforced is reflected in the following example provided by the Talmud:

Even if the witnesses saw (the assailant) chasing (the victim), gave him warning, and then lost sight of him, or they followed him into a ruin and found the victim writhing, while the sword dripping with blood was in the hands of the slayer, the court does not condemn the accused to death, since the witnesses did not see him at the time of the slaying.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether the state is ever morally or ethically entitled to kill, it’s clear that our modern-day thirst for vengeance is given much freer rein than we see authorized by the Old Testament. Who needs an eyewitness, much less two, when a death penalty conviction can literally rest on a single hair that may, or may not, be from the accused?

“Even the most cartoonishly drawn image of a wrathful God of Old Testament justice and vengeance cannot hold a candle to the cavalier way in which we are willing to kill the accused.”

No. Even the most cartoonishly drawn image of a wrathful God of Old Testament justice and vengeance cannot hold a candle to the cavalier way in which we are willing to kill the accused. Quite the contrary, we hear God solemnly swear in Ezekiel 33:11, “As surely as I live, … I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” I wonder how many Bible-believing white evangelicals who support the death penalty today despite all of its flaws would lend their “amen” to that statement.

Capital punishment is woefully counterproductive

Credible research shows that, rather than deterring murder, capital punishment tends to have a brutalizing effect on society, desensitizing us to the sacred value of life and actually increasing the homicide rate, at least in the immediate aftermath of an execution.

Simply by way of a single notable example, in the October 1980 edition of the journal Crime and Delinquency, Northeastern University researchers W.J. Bowers and G.L Pierce published the results of their meticulous study tracking homicide rates in comparison to executions in New York from the early 1900s through the mid-1960s. These researchers found no deterrent effect from the death penalty whatsoever, and, in fact, found a brief uptick in homicide rates immediately following executions, amounting to — on average — between two and three excess murders correlating to each of the executions during the time period studied.

“It is a damnable lie that our government, or any other government, can point the way toward a greater respect for the sanctity of human life with blood-soaked hands.”

In short, it is a damnable lie that our government, or any other government, can point the way toward a greater respect for the sanctity of human life with blood-soaked hands.

Capital punishment is inherently irreconcilable with Christian faith

It would be a gross understatement to say the church’s past views on the death penalty have been vacillating and inconsistent but — with the notable exception of America’s white evangelicals — its present voice is now being heard with growing clarity and insistency. By way of example, Pope Francis, in his encyclical Tutti Fratelli, sought to settle the question once and for all, unequivocally declaring the death penalty “inadmissible” in all cases, and committing the Catholic Church to seeking its abolition worldwide.

Of note, Pope Francis’ call for the death of the death penalty did not rest on the ugly truth that some of the executed may be innocent. Rather, even as to persons unequivocally guilty of the crimes for which they have been convicted, Pope Francis echoed the caution of Saint Augustine that we must not, as a society, allow their crimes to “feed a desire for vengeance,” that we must “desire instead to heal the wounds which those deeds have inflicted on their souls.”

At its very heart, Pope Francis’ unwavering opposition to the death penalty is rooted in his recognition that not even the vilest murderer can, by his crime, shed himself of the dignity of being made in God’s own image or separate himself from the love of Christ.

Or to quote Karl Barth, “The death penalty has been abolished on earth by the execution of Jesus Christ on Golgotha. The atonement of the Son of God has annihilated it completely; nothing speaks for it, everything speaks against it.”

For Barth, and an increasing number of Christians worldwide, there is simply no room for lynch mobs or executioners at the feet of a Christ who rejected the chance to condemn the guilty (John 8:11) and who spoke words of healing, mercy, grace and life to both the just and the unjust, and even to those agents of the state who had unjustly nailed him to the Cross.

Choosing life over death

Ending where we started with John Ramirez, we are struck in the face with the ugly truth of the incompatibility of the death penalty and our Christian faith. Why would Texas be so desperate to deny a convicted murderer the spiritual consolation of touch or of prayer by a trusted minister at the moment of execution? Because the death penalty demands, for its supposed legitimization, the utter dehumanization of the executed criminal. It needs the fiction that we are “putting down” a mad dog. An animal. A monster. It simply cannot bear any evidence of the truth that, with every execution, we are killing a human being.A child of God, made and loved by God with a love greater than any sin or crime. A fellow Christian, forgiven through the shedding of the same blood of Christ shed to forgive you and me, yet still in need of our help to find wholeness and healing from the damage inflicted upon himself by his own crime.

It is jarring for us to hear a call to view a killer as a victim to be rehabilitated and saved because, deep down, we — unlike God — do, in fact, take pleasure in the death of the wicked and have no desire whatsoever to help them turn from their ways and live. It is shocking because we have allowed the merciless retribution demanded by Fox News to all but extinguish the unmerited love commanded by Christ.

John Ramirez is not alone in his need for prayer and forgiveness in the shadow of the gallows. I pray that our eyes are opened more fully to our own sin and that we, as a nation, grasp hold of life not death, love not hate, faith not fear. I pray that we finally put to death the death penalty that is slowly but surely killing us as well as the accused.

(source: Chris Conley is an attorney and graduate of the University of Georgia and of the Emory University School of Law. He and his wife, Mary, live in Athens, Ga., where both are members and deacons at First Baptist Church----Baptist News)

INDIA:

Kerala: Wanted capital punishment for Sooraj Kumar, says Uthra’s mom

Uthra’s mother said she wants capital punishment for Sooraj Kumar who was awarded a double life sentence for murdering her daughter using a snake to bite her while she was asleep.

Manimeghala, who made the comments Wednesday after hearing the verdict of the additional sessions court in Kollam, said the life of her daughter, who was the light in her life, was snuffed out in the most barbaric manner by the accused.

She said for the past one year she was hoping that the judgement will provide solace to her in her search for justice but that she has been disappointed. Such lapses on the part of the judicial system was feeding a culture of impunity creating criminals, she said, struggling to hold back her tears.

Talking to media persons who thronged her house at Anchal, Manimeghala demanded justice for her daughter and said that the family would move the high court seeking a review of the trial court’s decision not to award capital punishment to Sooraj.

“It is up to the society to answer whether the judgement is satisfactory. We wanted maximum punishment for the accused,” she said.

Vishu, Uthra’s brother also expressed disappointment over the verdict which said that the crime committed with "unparalleled wickedness" but spared death sentence. He said the family would consider approaching the high court. Special prosecutor G Mohan Raj said it is up to the government to decide on approaching the high court with an appeal.

“As the court has found the accused guilty of all the 4 charges registered against him and awarded the maximum punishment in 3 of the 4 crimes, I consider the verdict as satisfactory,” he said. Rural SP Harisankar, who led the investigation, too shared the same opinion. “Sentencing is in the realm of the judiciary. Police cannot comment on it,” he said.

Ashokan A, DSP, crime branch, who was part of the investigation team, said he was satisfied that the accused got maximum punishment in 3 out of the 4 cases slapped on him, including a double life term. “The accused will have to serve 17 years in jail before the commencement of the double life term. That means, he will have to serve a major portion of his life in the jail if the government does not remit his sentence,” he said.

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

Doctor’s murder: Case in Madras high court to confirm death penalty for 7

A month after a city court imposed death penalty to 7 accused in the murder of Chennai based neurologist Dr S D Subbiah, due to family feud, the case has been referred to the Madras high court for confirmation of the capital sentence.

In August, an additional sessions judge imposed death penalty on 7 of 10 accused, sentenced 2 to double life terms and the other, who turned approver, without punishment.

On September 14, 2013, a gang attacked Subbiah with weapons when he came out of Billroth Hospital in Raja Annamalaipuram. He died on September 23. Subsequently, police arrested Dr James Satish Kumar and henchmen Murugan, Selva Prakash, Iyyappan, school teacher Ponnusamy, his wife P Mary Pushpam, and sons P Basil, a lawyer, P Boris and Yesurajan. The prime accused, advocate B Williams, surrendered in August 2018.

On Wednesday, the sessions judge sentenced Ponnusamy, Basil, Boris, William, James Satish Kumar, Murugan and Selva Prakash to double capital punishment under Sections 302 and 120B of IPC. Mary Pushpam and Yesurajan have been sentenced to double life terms. Iyyappan, who turned approver, was deemed prosecution witness and freed.

(source for both: Times of India)

PAKISTAN:

Game launched to to raise awareness about death row prisoners----'This Is (Not) A Game' lets players determine whether they can save the prisoner on death row or not

Justice Project Pakistan has launched a game to raise awareness about finding legal help for death row prisoners and their families.

Named 'This Is (Not) A Game,' the interactive online activity is based on a multi-narrative fictional story and gives the player 2 choices on each interface, leading to the final result - whether you were able to save the prisoner on death row or not.

Illustrated by Umair Najeeb Khan, each option in the game has a carefully curated photo with it. The choices players face are similar to the choices people face in the real world.

The game puts one in a difficult position as the player tries to save the lives of people on death row, weighing the pros and cons and simultaneously looking after oneself.

The game was launched on World Day Against the Death Penalty, observed on October 10. It sheds light on how this 'game' is a reality for over 4,000 Pakistani death row prisoners, whose struggles can span decades.

(source: tribune.com.pk)

MALAYSIA:

3 including 2 foreigners charged with trafficking drugs

3 individuals including 2 foreigners were charged separately at the Magistrate’s Court here today with trafficking 62kg of cannabis and Yaba pills last week.

Narayanan Loganathan, 42, from India, Puteri Adelia, 21, from Indonesia and a local woman M. Hemamalani, 26, nodded in understanding after the charges were read out to them before Magistrate Nur Melati Diana Abdul Wahab.

According to the charge sheet, Narayanan was alleged to have trafficked 62 kg of cannabis at a house in Bandar Lahat Mines here at 5.15pm on Oct 4, while Puteri Adelia and Hemamalani, along with another person still at large, were charged with trafficking 161gm of Yaba pills at 5,30pm in another house in the same area and on the same day.

They were charged under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries a mandatory death penalty.

The court set Dec 14 for remention pending the chemistry report.

(source: themalaysianreserve.com)

SOUTH KOREA:

Suspect in brutal murder says ready to accept death penalty

A murder suspect, who stunned the nation in August for killing 1 woman before cutting off his electronic ankle monitor and another afterward, admitted to his charges in his 1st court trial Thursday.

The 56-year-old suspect, Kang Yoon-seong, said he is ready to receive the death penalty after acknowledging the charges of killing the 2 women in Seoul, 1 on Aug. 26 and the other on Aug. 29, during his 1st court hearing at the Seoul Eastern District Court.

Kang, who has 14 criminal convictions, including sexual offenses, was arrested on Aug. 29 for killing the 2 women -- 1 before he cut off his monitoring ankle bracelet and ran away on Aug. 27, and the other while he was on the run.

"Murder is wrong no matter how good the reason is. Even if I were sentenced to death today, I wouldn't object. I'm determined to accept that," Kang told the court in a tearful voice.

But the suspect refuted part of the prosecution's indictment regarding his first murder charge, insisting he was just trying to check whether the victim was really dead or pretending to faint, instead of actually intending to stab her to death.

With regard to the second victim, Kang said she was his lover, and he unintentionally killed her after she said she would report him to the police.

Kang was set free in May, wearing the electronic ankle monitor, after serving 15 years in prison over his 2005 conviction for robbery and sexual assault, crimes he committed only 5 months after his release from prison for similar crimes.

He was under supervision by the probation office but allegedly committed the murders to take the victims' money and goods.

(source: yonhap.co.kr)

IRAN----execution

Esmail Ghassabi Executed for Murder in Isfahan

Esmail Ghassabi who was sentenced to qisas(retribution-in-kind) for murder, has been executed in Isfahan Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed on murder charges in Isfahan Central Prison on the morning of October 11. His identity has been established as 35-year-old Esmail Ghassabi.

Informed sources told Iran Human Rights: “Esmail Ghassabi was arrested for murder over financial disputes in the autumn of 2018 and sentenced to qisas.”

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

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

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

(source: iranhr.net)

GHANA:

Francis-Xavier Sosu: World Day Against Death Penalty

October 10, 2021, marked the World Day against Death Penalty, which was celebrated on the theme “Women and death penalty, an invisible reality.”

In Ghana, there are about 5 women who are currently under sentence of death. These women suffer immensely from trauma for existing at risk of being executed. Though these executions are hardly carried out in Ghana, the imperfections of our Judicial System are sufficient reasons why we must do away with death sentence. People could mistakenly be killed only for future evidence to exonerate them.

For the women on death role, the death penalty has been imposed mainly as the mandatory punishment for murder.

Trial judges are unable to consider or take into account any mitigating factors that relates to murder cases involving women including prolonged domestic violence in the hands of partners; the circumstances of the offence, or their peculiar backgrounds before sentencing women when they are convicted for murder.

This also forms part of the reasons why I have set in motion a Private Member’s Bill to amend various provisions in our Criminal and Other Offences Act (Act 29) to achieve ninety-five (95) percent abolishing of the death penalty.

It is my hope and expectation that Ghana would soon achieve at least 95 percent abolishing of the death penalty, and become the 24th African country to abolish the death penalty from our statute books, following neighbours including Sierra Leone, Guinea, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Togo and Chad the next time this Day is marked.

As stated by UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in a tweet on 25th July 2021, “the death penalty has no place in the 21st Century.”

(source: Opinion; The author, Francis-Xavier Kojo Sosu is a Human Rights Lawyer and Deputy Ranking Member, Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament----myjoyonline.com)

UGANDA:

EU delegation asks govt to abolish death penalty----Uganda last conducted civilian executions in 1999 while the last military execution was in 2005.

The European Union delegation has urged the government and Parliament to abolish the death penalty in criminal matters.

“Capital punishment has no place in any part of the world. It has no established deterrent effect and it makes judicial errors irreversible,” Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, the head of European delegation to Uganda, said during celebrations to mark the International Day for the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Kampala on Monday.

Mr Pacifici added that history has also shown that death penalty does not deter crime and its abolition has also not led to a spike in crime.

“All EU-member states have abolished death penalty, and EU is actively pursuing abolition of the death penalty at the global level,” he said.

Uganda last conducted civilian executions in 1999 while the last military execution was in 2005.

Mr Pacifici lauded the delay in enforcing the death penalty.

“On October 5, 2017, when I visited Luzira prison for a solidarity visit together with my European colleagues, there were 160 people on death row in Uganda —154 men and 6 women,” he said.

“Today, there are 123 inmates on death row, three are women. It is an improvement, but the total number is still very high,” the ambassador said.

Ms Doreen Kyazze, the director of sub-Saharan Africa, said only 16 states in Africa still have the death penalty in their laws.

The continent recorded 25 % executions in 2020, and death sentences dropped from 325 to 304 the same year.

Mr Ssubi Kiwanuka, the acting government spokesperson, said Uganda’s laws were reviewed and the Supreme Court had a position where [it] did not abolish the death penalty.

He added that the court instead reviewed how [the death penalty] should be operationalised with judges having discretion on how to impose it.

At the same function, Ambassador Pacifici launched a report titled, ‘Women Who Kill in the Context of Domestic vVolence in Uganda.’

The report targeted girls and women aged 18 to 60 convicted for murder and manslaughter in Arua, Gulu, Jinja, Masaka, Mbarara, Soroti , Mbale, Kabarole, Bushenyi and Wakiso districts.

The research shows that 19 % of the women who participated in the survey killed a male partner or family member.

The report also shows that 64 % of the women incarcerated are either charged or convicted of manslaughter or murder while 26 per cent are charged or convicted of a homicide involving and intimate partner.

(source: monitor.co.ug)

OCTOBER 13, 2021:

TEXAS:

Texas death row inmate could get new trial amid claims of antisemitic judge----Final decision will now be made by state’s highest court of appeal

A Texas death row inmate who is Jewish could get a new trial after alleging that the judge in his case was antisemitic.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which halted Randy Halprin’s execution in 2019, will now rule on whether he should be re-tried.

Dallas Criminal District Court Judge Lela Mays has recommended that Halprin is entitled to a new trial after she ruled that Judge Vickers Cunningham may have discriminated against him because of his religion.

In her findings, Judge Mays wrote that Judge Cunningham, who is white, “harbored actual, subjective bias against Halprin because Halprin is a Jew, and that Judge Cunningham’s anti-Semitic prejudices created an objectively intolerable risk of bias.”

And she stated that a “new fair trial is the only remedy” for Halprin, who was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the “Texas seven” slaying of a police office on Christmas Eve in 2000.

Halprin had accused Judge Cunningham in court documents of describing him as “a f***ing Jew” after the trial and of using a derogatory term for a Jewish person.

Judge Cunningham ran for a Dallas County commissioner seat in 2018, and his estranged brother, who is married to a Black man, claimed that the retired judge was a lifelong racist.

He also alleged that Judge Cunningham had promised to financially reward his children if they married someone of the opposite sex who was white and a Christian.

Judge Cunningham told The Dallas Morning News that while he was not a racist, he had created a living trust for his children with the clause his brother had described.

“I strongly support traditional family values. If you marry a person of the opposite sex that’s Caucasian, that’s Christian, they will get a distribution,” he confirmed to the newspaper.

He went on to deny that his views had ever impacted his job as a judge in Dallas County, which he held for a decade.

Halprin’s appeal for a new trial was supported by more than 100 Jewish lawyers in the state.

“When you have a judge that has a prejudgment against you and says horrible things about your religion or your race behind your back, you don’t have a fair trial,” attorney Marc Stanley told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.

(source: The Independent)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

SC Supreme Court to hear arguments for convicted Sunhouse killer death penalty sentence

The death penalty sentence for a Loris man convicted in the 2015 Sunhouse murders will be heard by the South Carolina Supreme Court Tuesday morning.

Jerome Jenkins was found guilty in 2019 of attempted murder, armed robbery, and murder. He was then sentenced to death.

This case was the 1st death penalty case to be tried in Horry County since 2008.

Jenkins and 2 other men, McKinley Daniels, who pleaded guilty, and James Daniels, who was found guilty, killed 40-year old Bala Paruchuri in January 2015.

Less than a month later, the same 3 men went to the Scotchman convenience store off Lake Arrowhead Road and robbed the store at gunpoint. No one was killed in that robbery, but police said the 3 men went to a 2nd Sunhouse gas station later that night in Conway, where they shot and killed cashier Trisha Dawn Stull.

In this death penalty appeal, the Court will consider a constitutional challenge to section 16-3-20(B) of the South Carolina Code (2015) and several evidentiary and procedural rulings made by the trial court.

S.C. Code Section 16-3-20(B) deals with holding a separate sentencing proceeding when the state seeks the death penalty in a case.

Jenkins was found guilty on Saturday, May 11, 2019. His sentencing phase started Monday, May 13, 2019.

Jenkins' attorneys are also arguing about the court not allowing a forensic psychiatrist to offer a piece of evidence regarding one of the co-defendants telling Jenkins to kill Stull; not allowing the defense counsel to inform the jury during the penalty phase of what would happen if they didn't come to a unanimous decision; by refusing to disqualify or excuse 2 jurors for different reasons; by refusing to exclude evidence of pre-trial misconduct at the Department of Corrections; and by excluding evidence of a riot at a state facility where Jenkins' was housed at the time that would have shown, according to the documents, Jenkins' inability to cope while being held in dangerous maximum-security prisons as a pre-trial detainee.

(source: WPDE news)

FLORIDA:

Florida's death row: 305 people live there. Only 8 killed victims in Palm Beach County.

* * *

Of more than 300 people living on Florida's death row, the state's 3rd most populous county has contributed only eight — compared with more than eight times the number Broward and more than twice the number in Miami-Dade.

Here are the stories of the crimes that led to their sentencing, with most of the cases stemming from the 1970s, '80s and '90s. An 18-year pause for Palm Beach County in sentencing anyone to death row ended with the case of Marlin Joseph, who killed a mother and her 11-year-old daughter.

Delray case: Death Row inmate indicted in 1975 Delray murder case

Marlin Joseph, shot mother and daughter in 2017

Sentenced to death on Nov. 19, 2020

On Dec. 28, 2017, Joseph repeatedly shot Kaladaa Crowell, 36, at a home their families shared on Third Street in West Palm Beach. As she pleaded for help, he shot her again in the head.

Then he chased her 11-year-old daughter, Kyra Inglett, out of the home as she fled and shot her 5 times, including 3 times in the head.

Joseph lived in the home, three blocks from Clematis Street, with his mother, Robin Denson, her partner Crowell, Crowell's daughter and several other family members.

Witnesses said Kyra had previous issues with one of Joseph's daughters, who was about the same age. Joseph reportedly told his mother days before the shooting that if there was another incident, he would have to take care of it.

On appeal: 'It’s bad, but it isn’t worth death penalty.' Lawyers want it overturned in slaying of mom, child

Sentencing: Judge imposes death sentence in 2017 West Palm Beach fatal shooting of mother, daughter

On Dec. 28, 2017, investigators said he got a text from his daughter after an incident with Kyra. When he got home, witnesses said the children had worked things out and were playing again. Joseph went to his room and read the Bible.

Once Crowell came home, witnesses said they heard Joseph confront her and shoot her several times. As she pleaded for help, he delivered at least one more shot to her head, police said.

After that, he chased Kyra out of the home with the gun.

Carlton Francis, stabbed to death twin 66-year-old sisters

Sentenced to death on Nov. 10, 1998

Carlton Francis stabbed to death 66-year-old twin sisters, Bernice Flegel and Claire Brunt, at their West Palm Beach home on July 24, 1997. Carlton, a neighbor, had occasionally received financial help and rides to school from the sisters.

Both widowed, the twins had lived together since 1983 and had been friends with Carlton’s mother, Elizabeth Goods, who lived on the block with Francis, two nephews and his elderly aunt. Goods and the twins went to garage sales together. At the scene, investigators found several shoeprints inside the home, some of which were consistent with Carlton Francis’ shoe size.

Claire Brunt was stabbed 16 times. Bernice Flegel received 23 stab wounds. Francis’ 8-year-old nephew testified to seeing Francis near the sisters’ home around the time of the murders, with a red stain on the shoulder of his T-shirt.

When Brunt’s daughter visited about 4 p.m. on the day of the murders, she noticed the sisters’ car missing and the front door ajar. Inside, she found her mother’s body in the living room and her aunt’s body in the kitchen. She found that a number of small items, including jewelry, antique coins, pocket watches, and a black radio were missing as well.

About 3:40 p.m. that day, Francis visited a friend named C.J., who admitted to selling heroin to Francis a number of times. C.J. testified that the car Francis was driving was the same that was stolen from the sisters.

After seeing a news report of the murders, Francis asked to borrow a wheelbarrow and gasoline, burning some clothing, a duffel bag, and what appeared to be a pocketbook and passport. Francis and his mother were questioned by police, and he could not produce the clothing that he was wearing during the day.

At a later date, Francis attempted to get C.J. to pawn some items, including coins, jewelry, and a black radio, but C.J. declined. A number of items belonging to the sisters were found in a trash pile across from C.J.’s house.

Francis was arrested 10 days after the murders.

West Palm Beach motorcycle officer Brian Chappell was killed by Norberto Pietri in 1988.

Noberto Pietri killed West Palm Beach motorcycle officer in 1988

Sentenced to death on March 15, 1990

Pietri was at Lantana Community Correctional Work Release Center awaiting a transfer to a more secure facility when on Aug. 18, 1988 he walked away. For the next 4 days, he used cocaine and committed burglaries to support his drug use.

On Aug. 22, he broke into a house and stole a 9-mm semiautomatic and a .38-caliber revolver. West Palm Beach Police Officer Brian Chappell was patrolling on his motorcycle for speeding motorists on Southern Boulevard just east of I-95 that day when Pietri, driving a stolen silver pickup going east, speeded past him. The truck turned right on South Dixie Highway, then west on Malverne Road, where it stopped.

WEST PALM BEACH. Norberto Pietri in court Tuesday in West Palm Beach in 2002. A tattoo of a spider can be seen on his neck by his collar. Pietri is on Death Row because he killed West Palm Beach police officer Brian Chappell in 1988.

Witnesses said Chappell put his helmet on his handlebars and approached the truck with his gun in his holster. He was not wearing his bullet-proof vest that day, according to West Palm Beach police. A pistol appeared out the window of the truck. Chappell was shot once through the heart within 2 to 4 feet of the truck.

Chappell managed to say "officer shot" over the radio before collapsing onto the pavement. Chappell, 30, was dead on arrival at Good Samaritan Hospital. Pietri drove to his nephew’s house and dumped the truck into a canal off Florida’s Turnpike. Pietri’s fingerprint was found on the inside of the driver’s window.

On Aug. 24, Pietri stole another car. An officer, who was not in uniform, identified him. Pietri threatened to shoot the officer and escaped.

Later that evening, Pietri stole a car from the driveway of a young couple. The wife was in the driver’s seat while the husband had returned to the home to retrieve something. Pietri jumped into the car and told the wife, “Drive, or I’ll shoot you.” When she hesitated, Pietri pushed her out of the car and started to drive away. Pietri did slow down to allow the husband to take child from the back seat.

A police officer spotted the stolen car. Pietri stopped the car and motioned for the officer to approach. When he did, gun drawn, Pietri sped away. Officers chased at speeds of more than 100 mph until Pietri lost control of the car. He then jumped out of the car and ran away. While running he reached in his pants, pulled out a bag of cocaine, and put it in his mouth. An officer caught up with Pietri and arrested him.

Leroy Pooler fatally shot ex-girlfriend in 1995

Sentenced to death on Feb. 23, 1996

On Jan. 1, 1995, Leroy Pooler knocked on the door of the West Palm Beach apartment of his ex-girlfriend, Kim Brown. Brown and her brother, Alvonza Colson, were home.

Brown told Pooler that she did not want to see him anymore. Brown may have been dating another man. Colson then opened the door and asked what Pooler wanted. When Colson saw that Pooler had a gun, he attempted to escape; Pooler shot him in the back and dragged him back into the apartment by his leg. Brown began to plead with Pooler not to kill her or her brother.

Leroy Pooler on Death Row for killing his ex-girlfriend Kim Brown in 1995.

She asked that Colson be allowed to get to a hospital, and Pooler let him to call an ambulance. He then changed his mind and told Colson to call an ambulance once he and Brown had left. Brown followed Pooler to the front door of the apartment, but shut and locked the door after Pooler left. Colson told Brown to run out the back, and he would stay and call an ambulance.

Then Colson realized that the phone wires had been cut. He started toward the back door as Pooler broke through the front door. Pooler found Colson hiding near the back door, but was distracted by Brown’s cries for help from behind the apartment. Pooler left the apartment and caught up with Brown. He struck her in the head with a gun. This blow caused the gun to fire. Pooler pulled Brown toward his car as she begged him not to kill her.

Brown began to fight Pooler. Then he began to pull her back toward the apartment and shot her several times. At one point he paused to say, “You want some more?” Several witnesses saw the shooting. Brown was shot five times, once in the head. Then Pooler drove away.

2 days before, Brown told one of her friends that Pooler had told her that he was going to kill her because, if he could not have her, no one else would.

Ronald Knight lured man from gay bar, shot him in the back

Sentenced to death on May 29, 1998

Ronald Knight was convicted for the murder of Richard Kunkel. On July 8, 1993, Knight and 2 co-defendants, Timothy Pearson and Dain Brennault, decided to go to a gay bar, lure a man away from the bar, and then beat and rob him. police say.

That night, they invited Kunkel to leave the bar and party with them. Kunkel followed the defendants to Miami Subs in his own car. When they finished eating, the defendants convinced Kunkel to leave his car there and ride with them to the party.

West Palm Beach - Ronald Knight speaks with his court appointed legal adviser Jose Sosa during pretrial motions. Knight is acused of murdering Richard Kunkel during a 1994 robbery. Knight won the right to defend himself in the capital murder case.

Knight then drove to a secluded area where they stopped and got out of the car to urinate. Before getting back into the car, Knight pointed a gun at Kunkel and told him to turn around and take off his jeans. As Kunkel did that, Knight fired a single shot into Kunkel’s back.

Kunkel fell to the ground and began crying for help. Knight told Pearson and Brennault to search Kunkel’s pockets. Brennault refused. Knight and Pearson then dragged Kunkel from the road to the side of a canal where he was left to die, and where his body was later discovered.

Knight then threatened to kill Brennault and Pearson if they told anyone about the murder. They returned to Miami Subs where Kunkel had left his car.

Knight stole Kunkel’s car and took it for a joyride, and later that night the three men burglarized Kunkel’s house. When Brennault and Pearson were originally questioned by the police about the murder, they denied knowing anything about it, but both men later confessed. Knight bragged about the murder to Christopher Holt, who later testified along with Pearson and Brennault against him at trial.

Karen Slattery, 14, was killed by Duane Owen in 1984 in her Delray Beach home.

Duane Owen killed 14-year-old baby-sitter, Boca woman in home

Sentenced to death on March 13, 1986

On March 24, 1984, 14-year-old Karen Slattery babysat for 2 young children in Delray Beach. Sometime in the early hours, Owen cut a screen on the house, removed his clothes and raped and killed the teen, while the 2 young children slept, unharmed.

Two months later, sometime during the late night and early morning of May 29, Owen forced his way into the Boca Raton home of Georgianna Worden, an executive secretary and mother of 2 young children. As Worden slept, the intruder hit her with a hammer. The blow caused her death. The intruder also sexually assaulted Worden, 38.

Her children found Worden’s body as they were preparing for school. Owen was arrested the on May 30, on unrelated charges.

Duane Owen on Death Row for killing a 14-year-old baby-sitter and a woman in her Boca Raton home.

During interrogations that occurred over the next several weeks, Owen confessed to Worden's murder. Owen’s fingerprint was also found on a library book in her home.

Jerry Haliburton attacked neighbor while he slept to see if he could kill somebody

Sentenced to death on April 11, 1988

On Aug. 9, 1981, Jerry Haliburton, while on parole, burglarized the West Palm Beach apartment of a neighbor, Donald Bohannon, 25, and attacked him while he slept. Bohannon, a truck driver, died as a result of 31 stab wounds to the neck, chest, arms, and scrotum.

6 months later, Haliburton confessed to the slaying as he held a knife to his younger brother’s girlfriend and raped her. His younger brother Freddie testified against him.

Jerry Haliburton is on Death Row for the murder of a neighbor while he slept.

After arresting him, police questioned Haliburton, but when he got an attorney, the attorney was not allowed to see Haliburton. During the questioning, Haliburton took a polygraph. After a court order was obtained, the attorney was allowed to consult with Haliburton and the interrogation was stopped.

According to Haliburton’s brother, Haliburton said he killed Bohannon just to see if he could kill another human being.

Paul Scott beat to death a Boca Raton florist in his home

Sentenced to death on Dec. 14, 1979

On the evening of Dec. 4, 1978, Paul Scott and Richard Kondian murdered James Alessi, 28, in Alessi’s Boca Raton home.

A witness, Charles Soutullo, claimed he was asked to participate in a scheme to rob and murder Alessi, but refused. The victim, who knew both men, picked up Scott and Kondian and later returned with them to his home.

Alessi’s nude body was found on a sofa in his home the next day. He was covered with blood and his hands and feet were tightly bound with electrical cord and telephone wire. Alessi had been beaten in the head, chest and on the arms. The head injuries, one of which fractured his skull, caused his death.

Death Row inmate Paul Scott beat to death a Boca Raton florist in 1975

Evidence indicated a violent struggle took place and the victim attempted to free himself. Scott’s fingerprints were found throughout the home, including the neck of a broken vase and a bloodstained knife on the sofa where the victim’s body was found.

After beating Alessi to death, Scott and Kondian rummaged through his house. They used a key to get inside Alessi’s florist and jewelry shop and seized most of the gold jewelry. They also stole Alessi’s car.

Scott was caught in Sacramento, Calif., one month after the murder. At the time of his arrest, Scott had a golden bear charm that was identical to the one that belonged to Alessi.

Kondian, who had no prior record and was then too young at age 18 for the death penalty, was sentenced to 45 years and served 15.

(source: Palm Beach Post)

ALABAMA:

In wake of legal challenge, Alabama will allow death row inmate 6 witnesses at Oct. 21 execution

In the face of a legal challenge, the State of Alabama has said it will allow all six of Willie B. Smith’s designated witnesses to attend his execution, which is scheduled for Oct. 21.

Smith was convicted nearly 3 decades ago of the 1991 murder of Sharma Ruth Johnson, the sister of a Birmingham police detective.

Lawyers for the state announced the change in witness attendance in a hearing held Friday, according to a federal defender working on the case. Prison officials had previously said they would limit the number of witnesses Smith could have present for his death, citing concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Prior to Friday’s hearing, lawyers for Willie B. Smith had asked the court for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented his execution “without all of the individuals Mr. Smith designated as witnesses to be present,” as guaranteed by Alabama law.

“While the need for COVID-19 measures is obvious, a global pandemic does not grant the ADOC the power to trample on Mr. Smith’s rights,” the filing said, “including his statutory right to have 6 witnesses of his choosing present at his execution.”

Lawyers for the state said in the hearing that Smith’s designated witnesses will be allowed to attend only if they sign a waiver, a federal defender said.

Officials have not announced, though, any changes to press access to the execution, which has been limited to 1 journalist: a representative of the Associated Press. Media outlets across the state have objected to the press restriction.

Lawyers for Smith, whose IQ is around 70, have appealed an earlier ruling dismissing his claims that officials violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Barring further court action, however, Smith’s execution will take place on Oct. 21.

(source: WIAT news)

LOUISIANA:

"Strong likelihood" DA will seek death penalty for accused killer Matthew Mire

A prosecutor said there is a "strong likelihood" his office will pursue the death penalty against a man accused in a multi-parish shooting spree that killed 2 people over the weekend, including a state trooper.

Ricky Babin is the district attorney in Ascension Parish, where both killings happened Saturday morning. Matthew Mire, 31, is accused of ambushing Trooper Adam Gaubert before opening fire on 2 people inside a home on Dutton Road.

Investigators believe Mire fatally shot Gaubert inside his police unit before killing a 2nd person, Pamela Adair.

"A young lady was murdered in my parish that was guilty of nothing but being home at the time," Babin said.

While no decision has been made yet, Babin told WBRZ that the severity of the crimes make pursuing the death penalty a strong possibility.

"That's a likelihood," Babin said. "I haven't read the report... but that's a strong likelihood."

Mire is being held in the East Baton Rouge jail after he was captured near Hoo Shoo Too Road late Saturday night. He is facing charges in three parishes, including Livingston Parish, for the crime spree that unfolded earlier that same morning.

Babin said having so many agencies involved in the case would typically slow down the trial process, but he expects things to move quickly because of the gravity of the allegations.

(source: WBRZ news)

CALIFORNIA:

Jury again recommends death penalty for murderer of Riverside police detective

For a 2nd time, a Riverside County jury has recommended that Steve Woodruff be put to death for the 2001 slaying of Riverside police Detective Doug Jacobs.

Woodruff, 58, had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2003. But in 2018, the state Supreme Court, while affirming Woodruff’s guilt, overturned his penalty because of what justices said was the improper dismissal of a prospective juror.

A jury candidate said in a questionnaire that while he opposed the death penalty, he could set that aside and follow the law. On a scale of 1 to 10, he had circled 1, meaning “strongly against” the death penalty. He should not have been dismissed without further questioning, the court ruled.

So starting in September, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office retried the penalty phase.

On Tuesday, Oct. 12, jurors chose to recommended death for Woodruff over life without parole.

Sentencing was set for Nov. 5 at the Riverside County Hall of Justice, where the judge could accept or reject the jury’s recommendation.

The jury heard testimony and saw evidence that normally would have been presented only during the guilt phase of a trial. For Jacobs’ daughter, Rachel, that meant hearing some details for the 1st time.

“This trial caused extreme pain and anxiety for our daughter,” Jacobs’ widow, Tammy Jacobs-Darby, said in a written statement. “She was only 7 months old when Doug was killed and 2 years old when the murderer was sentenced for the 1st time.

“I am relieved that this jury saw the same truth that we see and that the penalty of death was given, again. Death will never bring Doug back, but justice will eventually be served,” Jacobs-Darby said.

Witnesses included Ben Baker, an officer who responded to a complaint of loud music along with Jacobs, and had since retired.

“It’s cowardly when a man chooses to hide behind a building and ambush police officers who aren’t even engaged with him. Steve Woodruff is pure evil. The jury saw that and they recommended the appropriate punishment,” Baker said in a written statement.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a written statement that he was pleased with the jury’s recommendation.

“After all these years later, the death of Riverside police Detective Doug Jacobs still impacts the community, particularly the Riverside Police Department and the loved ones of Detective Jacobs,” Hestrin said.

Jacobs, 30, and other officers on Jan. 13, 2001, had responded to a complaint about loud music at 3140 Lemon St. near downtown Riverside that had escalated into a confrontation with Woodruff’s mother and brother. Jacobs was shot in the face as Baker tried to arrest Woodruff’s brother. Baker fired three return shots, but no one other than Jacobs was hit by gunfire.

(source: The Press-Enterprise)

USA:

Groups Opposed to the Death Penalty to Vigil Outside US Supreme Court as Government Argues to Reinstate Death Sentence for Boston Bomber.

Groups opposed to the death penalty will vigil and pray on the sidewalk in front of the US Supreme Court as DOJ attorneys argue for the reinstatement of the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Vigils will take place at 7pm tonight, October 12, 2001, and at 9:30am on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 on the sidewalk in front of the US Supreme Court as the Court hears arguments for and against the reinstatement of Tsarnaev's death sentence.

The sentence was vacated when it was determined that Tsarnaev's rights were violated because his trial judge had failed to exclude jurors who had already concluded that he was guilty. Last October, Donald Trump's Justice Department requested that the Supreme Court review the case and reinstate Tsarnaev's death sentence.

Former Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) had just completed running the race when the bombs went off.

"I stood at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 after completing the race to wait for my sister," said former Republican Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, who is now serving in the Ohio House of Representatives and has sponsored a bill to abolish that state's death penalty. "I witnessed the bombing. I also witnessed the injured being carried into the medical tent. The visions haunt me today. I was initially thrilled that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev received the death penalty. Today I have changed. I believe he deserves life in prison without parole, and I am disturbed that the Justice Department is arguing to reinstate his death sentence."

Schmidt returned to Boston to run in the Boston Marathon again yesterday. She provided the above statement because the Ohio legislature will be in session on Wednesday and she cannot attend the vigils in-person.

(source: Death Penalty Action)

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Supreme Court revisits death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

8 years after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing case, which led to the deaths of 3 spectators and a police officer, the Supreme Court on Wednesday will review a lower court opinion that wiped away the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 1 of the 2 brothers involved in the massacre.

Tsarnaev was convicted in 2015 in the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard and Lingzi Lu at the marathon and Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier several days later, among other charges. Hundreds were injured after Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan set off two shrapnel bombs near the finish line, leaving the sidewalks strewn with BBs, nails, metal scraps and glass fragments.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev would later die in a gunfight with police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being held in federal prison in Florence, Colorado.

In July 2020, a federal appeals court said that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will remain in prison for the rest of his life for "unspeakably brutal acts" but that he should be given a new penalty-phase trial, citing issues concerning juror selection and pretrial publicity as well as the exclusion of evidence that may have helped his case.

The 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the death penalty with directions to hold a new penalty-phase trial but warned: "make no mistake" -- Tsarnaev "will spend his remaining days locked up in prison."

"A core promise of our criminal-justice system is that even the very worst among us deserves to be fairly tried and lawfully punished," the court held.

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to step in and reinstate the original sentence, a request that the Biden administration renewed, calling Tsarnaev a "radical jihadist bent on killing Americans" who had been convicted of "one of the "worst acts of terrorism on United States soil since September 11th, 2001."

Ginger Anders, a lawyer for Tsarnaev, told the justices there is no dispute that the bombings were a "grievous and shocking act of terrorism" but that the lower court had made two "serious errors" that compromised safeguards needed to ensure that her client received an appropriate penalty.

During the guilt phase of the trial, the lawyers emphasized that Tsarnaev had participated only under his brother's influence. Anders also said the district court had violated the Eighth Amendment and federal law by excluding evidence she said would show that Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have been linked to three murders as an act of jihad in 2011. She said the evidence could have been used to further make the case that it was Tamerlan Tsarnaev, not his brother, who had taken the lead in the bombing and that he had unusual sway over her client.

"That is precisely the kind of evidence that a capital sentencing jury must consider if it is to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to render a reasoned moral response to the defendant and his crime," Anders wrote.

She also took issue with the fact that the district court had refused to ask prospective jurors a question that is normally asked in high-profile cases: "what they remembered hearing about the case."

"The court's refusal to elicit basic information essential to evaluating jurors' claims of impartiality improperly left jurors to be the judges of their own fitness to serve," Anders argued.

It is unclear whether, even if Tsarnaev's death penalty is reinstated, if he would actually be put to death, given the Biden administration's opposition to the federal death penalty.

The Biden administration Justice Department said that while Tsarnaev's lawyers had sought to compel discovery about the 2011 murders, they remain "unsolved" and the lower court judge had said there was insufficient evidence to describe Tamerlan Tsarnaev's true role in the crime to the jury.

Regarding the jury pool, the Justice Department told the justices that the court had summoned an expanded pool, which it screened with a lengthy questionnaire that included multiple questions about pretrial publicity. "

"This court should reverse the decision below and put this case back on track toward a just conclusion," acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the court.

She said that "pretrial publicity -- even pervasive, adverse publicity -- does not inevitably lead to an unfair trial."

Prelogar said the district court had conducted a thorough process in choosing prospective jurors that spanned "21 court days and nearly 4,000 transcript pages."

Over the years, survivors and family members have split on whether Tsarnaev should get the death penalty. In 2015, Bill and Denise Richard penned an op-ed for The Boston Globe after losing their 8-year-old son, Martin. "We know the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives," the Richards wrote.

Jennifer Kauffman said she was watching the race when the first bomb detonated and she suffered hearing loss, heart arrhythmia, internal bruising and swelling. She said she is against allowing another penalty phase to proceed.

"I know there are some people who do not agree with me and that is okay," she told the Globe. "I believe we all have the right to speak up, share our voices, and we each have the freedom to speak our truths even though we may disagree. I only hope we can do so from a place of compassion, kindness and respect for one another."

In a statement to CNN, Mikey Borgard, another survivor, said he thought the lower court was right to overturn the death penalty. "It identified serious problems regarding jury selection and exclusion of crucial mitigation evidence," he said.

He also called the death penalty "barbaric." "I cannot bear the thought of a human life extinguished on my behalf," he said.

But Helen Zhao, the aunt of victim Lingzi Lu, said the court "should not have overturned the verdict." She said she hopes the "next one will come to the same verdict" because "if we give up, basically we lost to him."

(source: CNN)

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The perplexing case of Biden, Tsarnaev and the death penalty

2 days after this year's Boston Marathon, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to reinstate the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The Department of Justice (DOJ) will argue in favor of execution, a sentence that was overturned by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2020.

In 2013, Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan detonated 2 homemade bombs at the marathon’s finish line on Boylston Street, killing 3 spectators and wounding nearly 300 others. The bombing unleashed a 4-day manhunt through the streets of Boston and its suburbs that left another victim, ­a MIT police officer, dead from gunshot wounds.

Heroic police officers exchanged bullets with Tamerlan, killing him, and eventually apprehended Dzhokhar. They did what we hope government first responders will do — protect the public against immediate and dangerous threats at their own peril. These law enforcement officers were exercising their duty in its purest form.

The DOJ is seeking to kill Dzhokhar — not in the heat of gun battle or to protect the public from a dangerous fugitive — but strictly out of vengeance and in cold blood.

In contrast, government officials now pursuing the death penalty against Tsarnaev are neither heroic nor pure. The government attorneys appearing before the Supreme Court are intent on capital punishment. The DOJ is seeking to kill Dzhokhar — not in the heat of gun battle or to protect the public from a dangerous fugitive — but strictly out of vengeance and in cold blood.

Yet, the majority of Massachusetts residents oppose the death penalty. In fact, when Tsarnaev was convicted in 2015 only 18% of Massachusetts residents believed he should be put to death. But although Tsarnaev’s actions took place in Massachusetts, the case and the sentencing are being decided by federal courts.

During President Biden’s campaign, he vowed to “eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example.” The example his administration is setting by pursuing death in the Tsarnaev case is, at the very least, perplexing, and more likely, duplicitous. The DOJ’s move to reinstate Tsarnaev’s death sentence also directly contradicts the moratorium on federal executions that Attorney General Merrick Garland announced this summer.

The Biden administration is preaching fairness and justice while simultaneously seeking death.

These actions are not those of a just and compassionate nation. The United States is one of the 30% of countries that practice the death penalty on its people, trailing only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt — countries we routinely condemn for human rights abuses — in the number of government-sanctioned executions in 2019.

And the same government that employs the strictest punishment possible for the accused lacks discipline in its own trial process and sentencing. People of color disproportionately receive the death penalty. While Black people comprise only 13% percent of the U.S. population, currently 40% of inmates on death row in federal prisons are Black. The percentage is similar for state prisons.

Furthermore, some of those on death row are innocent. Since 1973, 97 of the 185 people on death row who have been exonerated were Black. In 67% of those exonerations, the erroneous convictions resulted from misconduct by a government official.

Make no mistake, the court affirmed all the most serious of Tsarnaev’s convictions, including the multiple murder charges. He still stands convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. But if the death penalty is reinstated, it could be decades before Tsarnaev is executed, and in that time it will cost taxpayers around $1.12 million more than if his sentence remained life in prison.

Boston continues to grieve the marathon bombing, but Tsarnaev’s case is in the hands of our federal government. Therefore, we need Biden to demonstrate humanity, keep his campaign promise and work to abolish the federal death penalty. But until there is the political will in Washington to achieve this, his administration must stop advocating for death in the courts and he should commute all federal capital sentences. After all, saving 46 lives is as simple as a stroke of his pen.

(source: Karen J. Pita Loor is the associate dean for experiential education and a clinical professor of law at Boston University School of Law----WBUR news)

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Supreme Court considers reimposing death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber----The Justice Department is defending Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence, which a federal appeals court overturned last year.

The Supreme Court takes up one of the higher-profile cases of the term Wednesday, considering whether to reimpose the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after a federal appeals court voided it.

Although Attorney General Merrick Garland has ordered a moratorium on executions in the federal system, the Justice Department under President Joe Biden is nonetheless taking the same position that it did under the Trump administration, defending the death sentence for Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev was convicted of joining his older brother, Tamerlan, in planting 2 homemade pressure-cooker bombs near the marathon finish line in 2013 that killed three people and injured hundreds more, many of them seriously. Tamerlan, 26, died days after the bombings following a gun battle with police. Dzhokhar, then 19, was later found hiding in a boat parked in a backyard.

In a separate phase of the trial, the jury recommended capital punishment for Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev appealed the sentence, and a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit last year ordered a new sentencing hearing. It ruled unanimously that the trial judge failed to allow enough questioning of potential jurors about how closely they followed the extensive news coverage of the bombings.

The court also said the judge should have allowed Tsarnaev's lawyers to bring up a 2011 triple killing in the Boston area that investigators suspected was committed by Tamerlan. The defense wanted to use it to show that the younger Tsarnaev was dominated by his violent older brother, and was therefore less responsible for the bombings.

During the trial, Tsarnaev's lawyers did not deny his role in the marathon bombing. But they said he was easily manipulated by his brother, whom they called the mastermind.

Justice Department lawyers urged the Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court and let the death sentence stand, calling the case "one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our nation's history" and describing Tsarnaev as "a radical jihadist bent on killing Americans."

Past Supreme Court rulings don't require asking prospective jurors about the specific content of the news reports they've seen or heard, the government said. Instead, the test is whether jurors can set aside their impressions or opinions and base their verdicts on the evidence presented.

And as for the 2011 triple slaying, Justice Department lawyers said allowing evidence of the older brother's alleged involvement in a separate crime, with a different alleged accomplice, in an apparent effort to get money, could be confusing and distracting to the jury.

They added that an order to hold a new sentencing hearing would further traumatize the Boston community, saying, "The victims will have to once again take the stand to describe the horrors" that Tsarnaev inflicted on them.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, said he supported the government's effort to reverse the lower court ruling.

"I said a long time ago that I thought Tsarnaev should face the death penalty," he said. "So I would agree with the Biden administration on that one."

Many survivors of the bombing also support the death penalty for Tsarnaev. Marc Fucarile, who lost his right leg in the attack, said of capital punishment, "It's there, and his actions call for it."

But Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son was killed in the bombings, said despite the heinousness and brutality of the crime, they have a different view. "The continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives," they wrote in a letter published in the Boston Globe in 2015.

If the court rules for the Justice Department, Tsarnaev will remain on death row at Colorado's supermax prison. If it rules for Tsarnaev, the Biden administration will have to decide whether to try again to seek the death penalty or let his sentence of life in prison on the noncapital counts stand.

Either way, he'll never get out, a point noted by the appeals court. "Make no mistake: Dzhokhar will spend his remaining days locked up in prison, with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution," Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote.

(source: NBC News)

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Music Industry Leaders Join Fight to Abolish the Death Penalty: 'We Have a Responsibility'

Merck Mercuriadis and Jason Flom have signed onto a Richard Branson-led campaign to end capital punishment across the globe.

Since March, when Virgin Group founder Richard Branson announced the launch of the Business Leaders Against the Death Penalty campaign at South by Southwest’s virtual festival, the project has been building support among international businesses and now counts nearly 150 signatories from multiple countries, including executives from Facebook and Salesforce, who are calling for the global abolition of capital punishment.

The campaign views abolition through a lens of discrimination, calling it “a critical step in the movement toward racial and social equality.” In the U.S., for example — the lone Western nation that still practices capital punishment — more than 41% of death row inmates are Black, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, though Black people make up just 13% of the country’s population. Hipgnosis Songs Fund founder and CEO Merck Mercuriadis says music industry leaders have a particular moral obligation to get involved, as the music business has benefited for generations from Black culture. “We have a responsibility to use any leverage the success of our businesses gives us to advocate for the people and communities we make money from and with," Mercuriadis says.

The Business Leaders Against the Death Penalty campaign was coordinated by the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, a global organization whose CEO, Celia Ouellette, reached out to Branson last year to discuss crafting “a broader business statement against the death penalty,” says Branson, who founded Virgin Records in 1972. (Branson sold Virgin Records in 1992 and now focuses much of his energy on Virgin Galactic, the commercial spaceflight organization he founded under the Virgin Group umbrella in 2004.)

On Oct 10, in recognition of World Day Against the Death Penalty, Virgin Group’s nonprofit foundation, Virgin Unite, held a virtual event around a new series of documentary short films called It Could Happen to You that spotlight stories of individuals wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. Going forward, Branson says the goal is to mobilize “a critical mass of business leaders,” with targeted efforts to appeal to those who reside in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, where capital punishment is still practiced in many countries. The campaign and its network of frontline organizations will also urge business leaders across industries to become involved in “quiet diplomacy or public advocacy” around support for state or country-level abolition campaigns, as well as interventions in individual cases.

“I am convinced we can end the death penalty within a generation,” says Branson, noting that both Kazakhstan and Sierra Leone abolished capital punishment just this year. While support for the death penalty has waned slightly in the U.S. over the past few years and several states — most recently Virginia — have abolished it, most Americans continue to support the practice. In a Pew Research survey conducted this past April, 60% of respondents said they support capital punishment for people convicted of murder.

And yet the risk of executing an innocent person is significant. Since 1973, at least 186 people who were wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in the U.S. were later exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. For Jason Flom, Lava Records founder and campaign member, even one case is too many.

"When I have this debate with people who are in favor of the death penalty,” he says, “what I ask is this: ‘What percentage of innocent people is it okay to execute?’"

(source: billboard.com)

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END THE DEATH PENALTY----‘He died with his eyes open’: Covering the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh; When authorities executed McVeigh 20 years ago, it was federal government’s first use of death penalty since 1963, writes Andrew Buncombe

The authorities had been preparing for thousands of protesters, both for and against the death penalty. As it was, just a couple of hundred showed up.

Those that did were far outnumbered by the media. Up to 1,400 reporters had gathered on the thick grass outside of Terre Haute Federal Penitentiary to cover the execution of Timothy McVeigh, both America’s deadliest domestic terrorist with white supremacist sympathies, and also an ordinary-looking veteran of the Gulf War, and a Roman Catholic born in upstate New York.

In April 1995, with help of accomplice of Terry Nichols, a friend from army training, the disillusioned McVeigh had driven a truck bomb beneath the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and lit a 2-minute fuse before fleeing the scene in a second vehicle he had parked nearby.

The truck, a 1993 Ford F-700 rental vehicle, contained 4,800lbs of explosives and it destroyed almost all the 9-storey property, killing 168 people, including 19 children.

And so on this hot June morning in 2001, the authorities were preparing to put to death the 33-year-old, who had felt inspired to attack with such force a symbol of the government he had come to distrust and despise. The execution was set for 7am Central Time, and McVeigh would soon be strapped to a gurney, in what would be the federal government’s first use of capital punishment since 1963.

The entire process was disquieting.

One’s sympathies rushed to so many caught up in the affair, not least the victims and relatives from Oklahoma, 264 of whom had gathered to watch a live-feed of the execution taking place in Indiana.

Who knows what mix of emotions surged through their hearts that day, what thoughts occupied their minds as they sat and waited. In the eyes of many, McVeigh was a monster, and some of them hoped for satisfaction or some sort of emotional closure in seeing him die.

But one wondered whether McVeigh, powerless, his hair shorn to no more than a buzz and strapped down horizontal, lived up to that expectation.

Personally, it might in theory, have been far worse. A day or two earlier, I had sought to add my name to the list of media witnesses, 10 of who whom would be drawn or selected to watch the execution carried out, somehow believing it was my journalistic duty.

I had felt queasy about doing so, and 20 years later I hope I would not be so foolish. I was delighted, therefore, when the prison authorities said that only US citizens were eligible.

The execution was scheduled to start at 7am, and would involve 3 drugs being injected in succession into McVeigh’s body via an IV placed in his right leg – sodium thiopental to sedate him, pancuronium bromide to prevent him breathing, and potassium chloride to stop his heart.

Oklahoma City Bombing

There were just 2 people in the room with him, prison warden Harley Lappin and US Marshal Frank Anderson. Right on schedule, the warden asked the officer if the execution could proceed, and a final call was made to the Department of Justice in Washington DC to see if there was a reason to halt it. There was not.

“Warden, we may proceed with the execution,” said the officer, placing down a bright red phone he he had used to make the call.

An Associated Press reporter, who was among the witnesses, would reveal that soon afterwards, one of the IV lines extending through the wall could be seen to move as the first chemical began to flow. McVeigh swallow hard, his eyes moved slightly. His chest moved up and down.

At 7.14am McVeigh was declared dead.

When he came out to speak to us, the warden’s face looked drawn.

“The court order to execute Timothy McVeigh has been fulfilled,” he said. “Pursuant to the sentence of the US district court, Timothy James McVeigh has been executed by lethal injection.”

There had been 10 reporters in the room adjacent to the execution chamber, and they came out to share what they had been.

One of them was Shephard Smith, then with Fox News, but now an anchor with CNBC. (One wonders, 20 years on, how Smith might feel about being a witness.)

“We were standing at a glass window about 18 inches from his feet. He was wearing sneakers, you could see that. There were sheets up to here, and folded over. His hands were down. He looked straight at the ceiling,” he told us.

“When the curtains opened, to his left were his representatives. He sat up as much as he could in that chair and looked toward his window and nodded his head like that.”

Smith, and the other reporters, said as he had turned his head to look at those in the media room, McVeigh sought to gaze briefly at each of them individually.

Smith added: “He seemed almost to be trying to take charge of the room and understand his circumstances, nodding at each one of us individually, then a sort of cursory glance toward the government section. He lay there very still. He never said a word. His lips were very tight. He nodded his head a few times. He blinked a few times.”

Susan Carlson, a reporter with WLS Radio in Chicago, was among those to point out McVeigh had died with his eyes open.

“As he laid back in position and they started administering all the drugs, his breathing became a little more shallow,” she said. “At one point, he filled up his cheeks with air and then just kind of let it go. But I don't believe that was his last breath. There was still some shallow breathing that followed.”

Larry Whicher, whose brother Alan, an agent with the US Secret Service who had been killed in the 1995 bombing, had witnessed the execution and told CNN McVeigh had “a totally expressionless, blank stare”.

He added: “He had a look of defiance, and that if he could, he'd do it all over again.”

McVeigh had not made any final words, no apology to the families of those who died. Indeed, before his execution, the disillusioned young man had expressed regret he had not killed more people.

In place of a final statement, he had spent his final hours copying out the last lines of a verse of Invictus by the British Victorian poet Ernest Henley, that concludes: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

The prison said McVeigh’s final meal had been been two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Much has changed in the 20 years since McVeigh’s execution.

Following the the attacks of 9/11, which happened a few months later, the FBI and much of the intelligence establishment shifted its focus away from anti-government domestic terrorism, to foreign and domestic Islamist threats.

With hindsight, it was not the best decision; figures show that over the past two decades, white supremacist and anti-government groups have killed more people and planned more attacks than any other group.

Some of the flurry of organisations that have have made headlines recently, in rallies across the country, were involved in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol. Donald Trump had played down this threat, but in June Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told senators the greatest domestic threat was posed by “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.”

“Specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race,” said Garland.

Support for the death penalty has shifted as well. In 2001, the figure stood at 66 % in favour, something of a drop from 80 %, which had been the figure in 1994. (In the case of McVeigh, a Gallup poll found 75 % supported him being executed, among them 25 % normally opposed to the death penalty.)

Today, the figure stands at around 60 %, and the coalition of those opposed to the death penalty has grown. Perhaps, most noticeably, business leaders such as Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, and Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, have rallied to call for its abolition.

The Independent has added its voice to that campaign, calling for a halt to the use of the death penalty, both in the United States and around the world.

“I think to be a truly civilised country, you must realise that killing people as a way of trying to teach people not to kill people is not the way to do it,” Branson said in an interview last week.

Shortly after McVeigh was pronounced dead, President George W Bush would issue a statement from the White House saying that “this morning, the United States of America carried out the severest sentence for the gravest of crimes”.

He added: “The victims of the Oklahoma City bombing have been given not vengeance, but justice. And one young man met the fate he chose for himself six years ago.”

Not everyone in Terre Haute agreed.

Among them was was one of McVeigh’s lawyers, Robert Nigh, who said he thought the execution would actually help those calling for an end to the death penalty.

“We killed Bill and Mickey McVeigh's son this morning,” he said.

“If there is anything good that can come from the execution of Tim McVeigh, it may be to help us realise sooner that we simply cannot do this anymore. I am firmly convinced that it is not a question of if we will stop; it is simply a question of when.”

Before leaving the prison grounds, I stopped to speak to one of the anti death penalty protesters, Harold Smith, from Albany, New York.

Smith had occupied the same spot outside the maximum security prison for three days. I would later learn he was a former postal worker who had driven 15 hours to be there, passing through McVeigh’s hometown, Pendleton, in what had been a failed attempt to meet the condemned man’s father.

(source: The Independent)

GLOBAL:

Sir Richard Branson Talks the Death Penalty, Criminal Justice Reform on 'Righteous Convictions with Jason Flom'

On October 26, Lava For Good Podcasts launches Season Two of its powerful series, Righteous Convictions with Jason Flom, by bringing together two icons of business and social justice and an acclaimed human rights lawyer who are raising their voices for good. Virgin Group founder, investor, author, and anti-death penalty activist Sir Richard Branson, and Celia Ouellette, founder and CEO of the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ), join media executive, music industry legend, and justice activist Flom to discuss the death penalty, why it's essential for businesses to employ formerly incarcerated people, and steps we can all take to create change on key criminal justice issues.

Branson has long been a vocal opponent of capital punishment. His campaign to abolish capital punishment globally, the Business Leaders Against the Death Penalty Declaration, counts Arianna Huffington, Ben & Jerry's founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Life Is Good founder Bert Jacob, and Flom ares mong the business founders, owners, and leaders to sign on to the initiative. Ouellette has spent her career fighting for those most disadvantaged by broken criminal justice systems. She is now the CEO of Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, a not-for-profit working with businesses to champion fairness and equality across systems of justice.

Righteous Convictions with Jason Flom features a diverse who's-who of cutting edge activists at the forefront of the most critical issues of the day. Season two continues with guests including actress and political activist Ashley Judd, rapper and Run-DMC founder Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, and others. They join a prestigious lineup of guests who have appeared on the podcast, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, U.S. Congressman/Majority Whip James Clyburn; and Yale Law School professor and New York Times bestselling author Emily Bazelon.

Lava for Good Podcasts seeks to inspire action towards a more informed, empathic, and just society. It does this by peeling back the surface layers to reveal underlying truths and amplifying the voices of contemporary social justice champions on its hit series, including Webby Award Honoree Wrongful Conviction, Webby Award honorees and winners False Confessions and Webby Honoree Junk Science, and a slate of new series, including Then Who Did It?, The War on Drugs, a collaboration with Pulitzer Award-winner Gilbert King, and an 8-episode docuseries on the notorious case of Alabama death row inmate Toforest Johnson.

To listen to Righteous Convictions with Jason Flom, visit www.lavaforgood.com.

View original content to download multimedia:

(source: https://www.prnewswire.com)

SOUTH KOREA:

Korean Church decries delay in abolishing death penalty ---- The country's parliament has failed to pass an anti-death penalty bill for more than two decades

A Catholic Church body in South Korea has joined rights groups to express dismay over a long-protracted bill to abolish the death penalty that has failed to pass in parliament for more than 2 decades.

The Special Bill on the Abolition of the Death Penalty was tabled at the National Assembly on Oct. 7 for the 9th time since it was first proposed on Dec. 7, 1999.

Some 30 out of 300 parliamentarians have lent their support to the bill, media reports say.

The subcommittee for abolition of the death penalty under the Catholic bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission urged the government to pass the bill and abolish capital punishment, reported Catholic Times of Korea.

The bishops’ body joined the Conference of Religious, Human Rights and Civic Organizations on the Abolition of the Death Penalty that issued a press release to call on the government to pass the bill ahead of World Day for the Abolition of the Death Penalty on Oct. 10.

“The bill was proposed eight times but no progress has been made. We will work together with both civil society and religious circles to ensure that the special bill proposed this time passes through the National Assembly,” the conference leaders said.

“Although South Korea is a de facto abolitionist country with no executions for years, it should go beyond that and become a complete abolitionist country legally”

The forum pointed out that various research studies showed that the death penalty has no effect on the occurrence of crime.

“Although South Korea is a de facto abolitionist country with no executions for years, it should go beyond that and become a complete abolitionist country legally,” it added.

Andrew Kim Duk-jin, a member of the subcommittee, lamented that fewer parliamentarians in the National Assembly have supported the bill while noting that discussion on the bill is more important than the number of members backing it. “It must be passed this time,” he said.

According to official government records, South Korea carried out its last executions in 1997 when 23 murder convicts were hanged.

Korean bishops reiterate calls to abolish death penalty

Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Kim Dae-jung enacted a moratorium on executions in 1998 that existed until 2012.

According to New York-based rights group Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), South Korea sentenced one person to death in 2018 and 61 individuals remain on death row.

South Korea ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1990 but has yet to ratify the Second Optional Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, PGA noted.

The European Union and Amnesty International have written letters to the South Korean Constitutional Court in support of the abolition of the death penalty.

A 2018 survey by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea found that 80 percent of respondents were supportive of the death penalty, but 70 percent opted for repealing it for an alternative punishment.

The administration of the country's third Catholic President Moon Jae-in has been deliberating whether the execution moratorium should be upheld or be suspended.

On Nov. 17 last year, South Korea voted for the 1st time in favor of a United Nations resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

(source: ucanews.com)

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Tougher penalty for stalkers----Time to awaken to gravity of stalking crimes

A Seoul court has sentenced a 25-year-old man to life imprisonment for murdering a woman he stalked, as well as her mother and younger sister, in a case that raised awareness about stalking crimes. On Tuesday, the Seoul Northern District Court handed out the sentence to Kim Tae-hyun, who had been indicted on five criminal charges, including murder and breaking and entering.

Kim claimed the killings of the mother and the sister were not premeditated, saying he wasn't aware of the other family members. But the court rejected his claim and convicted him of all charges brought against him. "The mother and the sister were brutally murdered although they had nothing to do with the defendant. The crimes show the defendant's extreme disregard for human life," the court said.

Kim was arrested at the victim's home in Seoul on March 25, days after killing the three women there. He had been stalking the family's eldest daughter he met through online games last year. After she cut communications with him, Kim disguised himself as a delivery man to enter her home and commit his crimes.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for him, arguing that Kim had planned the crimes in advance. But the court rejected their request, stating that Kim acknowledged most of his crimes and had no prior serious criminal record. Nonetheless, the life sentence may seem too light a penalty, given the severity of his crimes.

The murder case should serve as an occasion to awaken our society to the gravity of stalking. Stalking is a serious crime that makes it impossible for a victim to lead a normal life. In this respect, it is welcome news that a new law on stalking was enacted in March. Under the law that will go into effect next week, stalkers can face up to 5 years in jail or 50 million won ($42,000) in fines. Hopefully, this law will take firm root so that no one will fall victim to stalking crimes ever again.

(source: Opinion, The Korea Times)

BANGLADESH:

Court sentences 5 to death for 2010 murder of college student in Rajshahi

A Rajshahi court has sentenced 5 to death for the murder of college student Raju Ahmed in the city’s New Market area in 2010.

Division Speedy Trial Tribunal Judge Anup Kumar acquitted another 9 suspects in his verdict on Tuesday.

The convicts who received the death penalty are Azizur Rahman Raju, Sazzad Hossain Saju, Md Rinku alias Boya, Ismail Hossain and Mahabur Rashid Rentu. The court fined them Tk 10,000 each as well.

Another suspect in the case died while the trial was ongoing. The remaining 14 were all in court to hear the verdict.

According to the case file, Raju’s father Esar Uddin, a resident of Hasnipur village in Rajshahi’s Bagmara Upazila, owned a jewellery store in Madariganj market. He was involved in a land dispute with Rentu.

Rentu demanded Tk 50,000 from the store in 2010. After he was refused, a group of people, led by Rentu, vandalised the store.

Raju filed a case over the incident. Facing threats from the suspects named in the case, Raju fled home and moved to a dormitory in Rajshahi city to live with a friend.

On Mar 15, 2010, Rentu and his accomplices attacked and killed Raju with knives. He was an HSC candidate at Rajshahi’s Daokandi Degree College at the time.

Esar Uddin then filed a case, accusing the 15 suspects of his son’s murder.

The verdict in the case was finally handed down on Tuesday.

(source: bdnews24.com)

INDIA:

Man gets death penalty in Sonepat triple murder

A local court in Sonepat on Tuesday awarded death penalty to a man for killing his friend’s sister’s husband, her father-in-law and mother-in-law after the friend’s sister had an inter-caste marriage nearly 5 years ago. District additional sessions judge RP Goyal convicted accused Harish to death penalty and framed charges against the woman’s brother Satender alias Monu, who is absconding, for shooting at his sister and her brother-in-law and killing her husband and his parents after the inter-caste marriage.

The court acquitted Satender’s brother Sonu and their father Om Prakash due to lack of evidence.

The court has given death penalty to Harish, of Hasanpur, under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 449 (house trespass in order to commit offence punishable with death) of IPC and under the Arms Act and the SC/ST Act.

Harish is undergoing imprisonment in district while Satender is on the run. Police have declared the latter a proclaimed offender.

In his complaint to police, Suraj, of Kharkhauda in Sonepat, said his brother Pradeep got married to Sushila, of Birdhana village, in Jhajjar in 2013 against the wishes of her family.

“On November 18, 2016, my sister-in-law Sushila’s brother Satender and his friend Harish entered our house and fired shots at our family in which my brother and our parents died. I and my sister-in-law received bullet injuries and she gave birth to a baby boy at Rohtak’s PGIMS the next night,” he added.

(source: Hindustan Times)

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Man gets death sentence for beheading mom

A mahila court in Pudukottai on Friday sentenced a man to death for beheading his mother over a family dispute.

The court also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the convict, identified as T Anand, 26, of Maravanpatti who murdered his mother T Thilagarani, 45, in 2018. In case of failing to pay the fine, the convict should undergo two years of jail term.

Anand beheaded his mother on March 18, 2018 when she was waiting at Malaiyur bus stop to go to Pudukottai. The Malaiyur police arrested Anand.

Thilagarani’s mother A Lakshmi was the complainant in the case. Thilagarani was the only daughter to Lakshmi. She was married to Thangarasu and the couple had 5 sons. Anand was her 1st son.

In 2007, Thilagarani murdered Thangarasu by throwing a stone on his head over a family dispute. The Karambakudi police investigated the case and a court acquitted Thilagarani in the case.

After acquittal, she stayed and 5th son stayed together while the rest of the sons refused to live with her. They were under the custody of their paternal grandfather in Maravanpatti.

Anand used to quarrel with Thilagarani over a property issue. Anand had threatened his mother with dire consequences for killing his father and over property issues.

Sub-inspector of police R Selvaraj of the Malaiyur police said the motive of the murder was the killing of Thangarasu and the disputes over properties. Anand who was on bail, was arrested after the judgment was pronounced.

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IPC Section 376E permits death for 2nd conviction: Maharashtra on Shakti Mills gangrapes

At a death confirmation hearing for 3 men convicted as repeat offenders in the Shakti Mills gangrape cases of 2013, the state, through its special public prosecutor Deepak Salvi, said that the law amended that year is clear and permits the noose for a “2nd conviction”.

Disagreeing with the interpretation of the law under Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which introduced death penalty for a second conviction to a repeat offender of rape as submitted by the convicts’ counsel Yug Chaudhry, Salvi said that only conviction after a conviction is the requirement of law, “sequence and time of the offence is immaterial”. Chaudhry had submitted that the law mandates a prior conviction before the commission of the second offence, for which if convicted, death sentence was contemplated under IPC Section 376 E. It cannot be invoked in a scenario where two crimes have occurred, but tried simultaneously, as in this matter, before the HC, Chaudhry had added.

In the hearing before the HC bench of Justices Sadhana Jadhav and P K Chavan, Salvi, however, referred to and relied on a US court ruling Deal vs United States which had upheld an enhanced punishment for subsequent conviction.

The US judgment had said that “present statute does not use the term ‘offence’, and so does not require a criminal act after the first conviction; it merely requires a conviction after the 1st conviction”. Salvi drew a parallel to language of IPC Section 376E which stipulates: “Whoever has been previously convicted of an offence punishable under Section 376 (rape) ….or Section 376D (gangrape)…and is subsequently convicted of an offence punishable under any of the said sections shall be punished with imprisonment for life which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person's natural life, or with death.”

A 22-year-old photojournalist was raped in August 2013, at the defunct Shakti Mills compound at Mahalaxmi by 5 persons, including a minor. A 19-year-old telephone operator too then complained of being gangraped on the same premises. The accused were mostly the same. On March 20, 2014, the sessions judge 1st held 3 common accused guilty for the gangrape of the telephone operator and minutes later pronounced them guilty for the gangrape of the photojournalist. The trio was given the death sentence in April 2014.

(source for both: The Times of India)

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Uthra murder case: Age, lack of criminal history saved Suraj from death penalty

see: https://english.mathrubhumi.com/news/kerala/uthra-murder-case-age-lack-of-criminal-history-saved-suraj-from-death-penalty-uthra-murder-case-snakebite-murder-1.6085221

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Jhajjar man gets death penalty for honour killing

The court of Additional District and Sessions Judge RP Goyal awarded death sentence today to a man for the murder of three members of his sister-in-law’s family for ‘honour’ in 2016 in Kharkhoda of Sonepat.

The convict has been identified as Harish of Jhajjar. Another convict Satender, alias Monu, also from Jhajjar, is absconding and has been declared a proclaimed offender.

The court said the quantum of sentence would be awarded to Monu after he surrenders or was produced in the court.

Calling it the rarest of rare case, the court said the accused was a threat to society and awarding life imprisonment would not be justified under any circumstances.

Suresh, his wife Sunita, their son Pradeep were shot dead in their home at Kharkhoda on the night of November 18, 2016, by Harish and Satender, while Pradeep’s wife Sushila and her brother Suraj sustained bullet injuries.

Sushila, who belongs to general caste, had married Pradeep, who is an SC, in 2012.

A case under various sections of the IPC, Arms Act and SC/ST Act was registered against Sushila’s father Om Prakash, brothers Monu and Sonu, and her cousin Harish.

The court has acquitted Sushila’s father and Sonu.

“Life is precious and nobody has a right to take away the life of another but Harish and Monu has killed three people and caused injuries to 2 because Sushila married Pardeep against the wishes of her family... This court has no alternative except to sentence death penalty,” the court said.

The court ordered that Harish be kept in the Sonepat district jail. He won’t be executed till the confirmation of the death penalty from the HC.

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Dera man Ranjit Singh’s murder: Court defers verdict to Oct 18

A special CBI court in Panchkula on Tuesday deferred the quantum of sentence to October 18 against the Dera chief and 4 other convicts in the murder case of a sect follower, Ranjit Singh.

During the hours-long arguments, the CBI sought death penalty for Ram Rahim, who, in turn, appealed for mercy in view of his work towards social causes.

While the prosecution concluded its arguments (which included Supreme court judgements), the defence counsels, excluding convict Avtar Singh’s lawyer PK Sandhir (who addressed arguments), requested “short adjournment to advance their arguments on the quantum of sentence as the case laws cited by prosecution are to be gone through by them”.

The court entertained request and adjourned the quantum to October 18.

Special CBI prosecutor HPS Verma said the CBI reserved its order on the sentencing for October 18 on a request filed by the defence counsels seeking time to file a counter to the CBI arguments.

He said, ‘’We have sought maximum punishment under 302 (murder) of the IPC against Ram Rahim as he is a previous convict in two cases” he said, adding that he (Dera chief) through an eight-page statement submitted before the court, pleaded for leniency because of the charity work by the dera such as tree plantations, eye camps, and relief material sent to flood and quake-hit areas.

The defence counsels will conclude their counter arguments on the next day of the hearing following which the court is expected to pronounce quantum.

Jagsheer Singh, the son of victim Ranjit Singh, also appeared before the court and requested it to “award severe punishment to the convicts and compensation to him and his family”.

Ram Rahim was produced from Rohtak’s Sunaria jail, via video conferencing, while 4 other convicts were physically present in the court.

Ram Rahim is already serving a 20-year jail term for raping his 2 disciples, and life imprisonment for the murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati.

On October 8, the court of special CBI judge, Dr Sushil Kumar Garg, had convicted Ram Rahim, Krishan Lal, Jasbir Singh, Avtar Singh and Sabdil Singh under Section 302 and 120-B.

(source for both: tribuneindia.com)

SINGAPORE:

Man to Be Hanged for Bringing Bundles of Pot Into Singapore ---- Appeal that centered on claiming confession was coerced was dismissed Tuesday

A man in Singapore is going to be hanged for bringing three bundles of cannabis into the country. Omar Yacob Bamadhaj, 41, lost an appeal Tuesday of a sentence handed down in February. In July 2018, Bamadhaj had hopped across the border from the tiny city-state into Malaysia to run errands and go to a mosque with his father. While there, he ran into some acquaintances at a car wash who gave him 3 bundles wrapped in newspaper, plastic wrap, and foil. How that went down is where the trouble lies. In his appeal, Bamadhaj said he in fact did not know the bundles contained about a kilogram of cannabis, which is very illegal in Singapore, but he initially confessed when the police first questioned him, Channel News Asia reports. Later, he said his acquaintances put the bundles into his car without his knowledge.

Police pulled the car over shortly after midnight. His dad, who was driving, was off the hook; police believed him when he said he had no idea there was cannabis in the car. Bamadhaj told police that he had been offered 500 Singapore dollars per bundle to carry the drugs into the city-state, that he thought about it for 20 minutes before agreeing, and said he was “desperate for money.” But he retracted the confession 5 days later. In his appeal, he said the Central Narcotics Bureau officers coerced him. He said they threatened to hang both him and his father. He said he had been high when he said those things.

Amnesty International condemned the decision to dismiss Bamadhaj’s appeal. “Singapore authorities have violated international safeguards and sentenced yet another person convicted of drug trafficking to death by hanging,” Chiara Sangiorgio, a death penalty advisor for the NGO said per Vice. Just last year, another Singaporean was sentenced to die by hanging in a drug case—via a Zoom call. Singapore’s residents apparently feel the draconian laws make it one of the safest places in the world.

(source: newser.com)

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Woodlands double murder: Man facing death sentence for killing pregnant wife and daughter mounts appeal

A man who strangled his pregnant wife before killing his four-year-old daughter in the same manner appealed against his double-murder convictions on Wednesday (Oct 13).

The panel of 5 judges reserved their verdict and will issue it at a later date.

Teo Ghim Heng, 46, was sentenced to death in November 2020 for murdering Ms Choong Pei Shan, who was 6 months pregnant, and their daughter in their Woodlands flat.

He strangled his 39-year-old wife with a towel in January 2017 after quarrelling with her about finances and after she purportedly insulted him, calling him a "useless" father in front of their daughter.

He then continued strangling her with his bare hands until she died, before asking his daughter to sit on his lap. He strangled her with the towel while she cried, telling her to "go find Mummy already".

In the days after the murders, Teo laid the 2 bodies on his bed and slept with them for a week. He tried to kill himself repeatedly in various ways but failed each time. He eventually set fire to the bodies and tried to lie next to them but "chickened out" because of the heat.

The charred bodies were found on the 1st day of Chinese New Year in 2017, when Teo's brother-in-law came knocking at the door and detected an acrid smell coming from the windows.

THE DEFENCE'S CASE

Teo's lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam opened by telling the court on Wednesday that there were 3 undisputed facts: First, all the witnesses who came to court including Ms Choong's family testified that Teo loved his wife and daughter very much.

2nd, he was previously a successful property agent who could no longer earn what he used to at the time of the offences due to a market downturn.

3rd, he owed the bank and his friends about S$120,000 and was earning much less than what he used to, and owed two months' worth of his daughter's preschool fees.

For the appeal, Mr Thuraisingam and fellow defence counsel Johannes Hadi dropped the partial defence of grave and sudden provocation, which they had pursued at trial but was rejected by the trial judge.

Instead, they focused on the partial defence of diminished responsibility: They argued that the trial judge was not correct to find that Teo did not suffer from Major Depressive Disorder at the time of the offences, and that Teo's mental responsibility was not substantially impaired.

(source: channelnewsasia.com)

GHANA:

160 inmates on Ghana’s death row – AI

By the end of the year 2020, there were 160 inmates including 5 females on Ghana’s death row, Amnesty International (AI) Ghana Office has said.

Amnesty International has described death penalty as unfair and discriminatory.

“The Death Penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

It has therefore called for the abolishing of Death Penalty in Ghana’s statutes as same constituted torture.

Speaking at a media briefing in Accra on the commemoration of the 19th World Day against Death Penalty 2021, Mr Frank Kwaku Doyi, Director of AI Ghana, noted that Ghana had ratified conventions against torture, hence the need to take the practice out of Ghana’s Statute.

This year’s celebration is themed: “Women and the Death Penalty, an invisible reality”.

Death penalty comes in the form of firing squad, lethal injection, hanging, among others.

Ghana still retains Death Penalty in law and inmates can be executed at any point in time at the signing of a death warrant by the President of the Republic.

The last execution carried out in the country was in the year 1993.

Mr Doyi said the conditions of men and women on death row did not meet international standards, as inmates reported of poor sanitary facilities, isolation, lack of access to medical care, among others.

According to Mr Doyi, appeals were not mandatory in Ghana and the majority of those on death row were unable to appeal against their convictions and death sentence.

He said in Ghana, the death penalty had been imposed mainly as the mandatory punishment for murder, noting that, judges were unable to consider any mitigating factors relating to cases, the circumstances of the offence and the background of defendants at sentencing when they impose death penalty.

Mr Doyi said there were no proof that imposition of death penalty had reduced crime.

“There is no credible evidence to show that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than life imprisonment. There are examples of countries which maintain the death penalty in their legislation and yet crime rates have remained at high level, for example the United States.

He therefore appealed to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, to put into effect the President’s directive to initiate the process of amending the Criminal and Other Offences Act-1960 (Act 29).

The Director of AI further appealed to Mr Alban Sumana K. Bagbin, Speaker of Parliament to support and pass the Private Member Bill currently before Parliament, so that Death Penalty would be remove from the Criminal and other Offences Act.

In his view, Ghana could learn from its fellow West African country, Sierra Leone, whose Parliament unanimously voted in favour of abolition of the Death Penalty in July 2021.

He said AI would mount a continuous campaign on abolishing Death Penalty.

Mr Francis Xavier Sosu, Member of Parliament for Madina Constituency, noted that inmates on death row would need a minimum of GH75,000 and maximum of GHC120,000 to file an appeal against death sentence.

Mr Sosu further observed that Forensic Systems in the country were not well developed and some judges could make mistakes when sentences were passed.

He said in advance countries, forensic system played key role in cases.

Mr Samuel Agbotsey, Campaign and Fundraising Coordinator, AI Ghana, said it was important that the debate on the abolishing of Death Penalty was not done partisan lines.

He said AI had gone to the aid of a woman on death row and his organization would assist her to file appeal against her sentence.

Mr Agbotsey said this year’s celebration focus on women, because they suffered a lot of domestic violence on the quiet and unable to mount good defence when they were held for an offence.

In June this year, Mr Sosu introduced a Private Member Bill to remove the Death Penalty from the Criminal and other Offences Act -1960 (Act 29).

If adopted and signed into law, the law would abolish the Death Penalty for most offences.

(source: newsghana.com.gh)

LIBERIA:

GoL Urged to Abolish Death Penalty

A coalition of leading civil and human rights groups has begged the Liberia government to abolish the death penalty, which the country still has as legal form of punishment.

The plea, led by the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia and The Independent Human Rights Investigators, reminds the government that the death penalty does add value to the system of punishing people in conflict with the law.

Rather, the group said it delivers failed justice and the process is marred by cruelty, waste, ineffectiveness, discrimination, and an unacceptable risk of error. For Adama Dempster, the group’s Secretary-General, the death penalty does not accord the convicts a chance to reform or be rehabilitated compared to jail time, as the practice itself is inhumane and flawed.

“We plead with the government of Liberia to put into action its acceptance to abolish the death penalty made to the United Nations Human Rights Council third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2021. Liberia, in its submission, accepted among other recommendations to abolish the death penalty, putting a moratorium on executions,” said Dempster, founding director of the Independent Human Rights Investigators.

“We have learned that nothing can bring back to life a loved one, not even the execution of his or her killer,” he said. “Therefore we call on the government of Liberia to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdictions and in line with its human rights obligations.”

Dempster added that there is no criminological justification for the death penalty, which would outweigh the human rights grounds for abolishing it. He added that the argument that the death penalty is needed to deter crime is not true but negates the internationally accepted penological goal of rehabilitating the offender.

The government’s 2021 commitment follows a similar one made in May 2015, at which time, the then government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf accepted some 20 recommendations on the abolition of the death penalty. But shockingly, according to FIACAT, Liberia has also abstained in every vote on UN General Assembly's resolutions, calling for a universal moratorium on capital punishment with a view to abolish the death penalty.

The International Federation of ACAT (FIACAT) is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) for the defense of human rights, whose mandate is to fight for the abolition of torture and of the death penalty. It was formed on 8 February 1987 under French law and is based in Paris, France.

And while Liberia’s 1986 Constitution of Liberia guarantees the right to life of all persons within the territory of Liberia, it did not implicitly imply that capital punishment could be considered unconstitutional. The death penalty, according to the new Penal Code of 2008, may be imposed for the following 3 classified crimes: armed robbery, terrorism, and hijacking.

The law also provided that a person convicted of one of the above offenses and who raped or attempted to rape his victim or who caused partial or permanent disability to his victim shall be sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of release at the age of 90 years old.

It is estimated that a total number of 16 persons are on death row since the penalty resurfaced in 2008. Liberia had earlier ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2005, but reintroduced the death penalty in 2008 -- the only country in the world to have reversed its position following accession to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.

The optional protocol calls for state parties to place a moratorium on the application of the death penalty and work towards its abolition. And despite Liberia’s reversal, the last death penalty carried out was in 2000, and the last known death sentences: were rendered in 2016 for murder by the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Kakata, Margibi County.

Meanwhile, the Coalition, through Dempster, however, believes that Liberia will join Sierra Leone as the 24th country to abolish the death penalty on the African continent and the 111th country in the world to abolish the death penalty. On October 8, 2021, Sierra Leone became the 23rd country in Africa to have abolished the law.

(source: liberianobserver.com)

KUWAIT:

Death sentence upheld for Kuwaiti man in murder of his wife

The Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence issued against a Kuwaiti citizen who killed his wife and dumped her body in Salmi among dead animals. According to the case file, a Kuwaiti woman reported her daughter missing at the Firdaus Police Station, explaining that her daughter has been absent from the house for several days and her husband had turned off his mobile phone and did not respond to any call.

As soon as the report was filed, the detectives began searching for the missing woman. The detectives tracked the husband, who they discovered was wanted by the law for financial cases and has been hiding since the disappearance of his wife. He was arrested and taken to the investigation office, where he admitted that he had lured his wife when he saw her in Ardiya Cooperative Society and asked her to accompany him to solve the family disputes between them.

He took her to a desert area in Salmi area, and hit her several times on her head with a rod until she died. The husband then placed the lifeless body of his wife in a sleeping bag, threw it among dead animals, and attempted to cover it with wood. After documenting the husband’s confession, the detectives went to the location of the body, accompanied by forensic staff and the attorney general’s representative.

(source: arabtimesonline.com)

IRAN----execution

Omid Sarani Executed on Drug Charges in Birjand

Omid Sarani who was sentenced to death on drug-related charges has been executed in Birjand Central Prison. At least 84 prisoners, including a woman, have been executed on drug-related charges in Iranian prisons in 2021.

According to the Baluch Activists Campaign, a Baluch man was executed in Birjand Central Prison on the morning of October 11. His identity has been reported as Zabol-native, Omid Sarani, who was sentenced to death on drug-related charges.

Omid Sarani is reported to have been in the military and arrested on carrying 30 kilograms of methamphetamine while crossing the Sahelabad Nehbandan checkpoint.

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

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, at least 25 people were executed on drug-related charges in 2020. However, at least 84people have so far been executed on the same charge in 2021.

On May 3, IHR published a report on the death penalty in the first 4 months of 2021 expressing concern at the significant increase in the number of drug-related executions and continues to warn of the continuation of this trend.

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

Iran Temporarily Postpones Execution Of Juvenile Offender

Amnesty International says Iran has postponed the execution of a man arrested at age 17 and sentenced to death following what rights groups said was a "grossly unfair" trial.

The "execution is now postponed to Saturday, 16 October. He remains at risk of imminent execution in Iran," Amnesty International said on Twitter on October 13.

The London-based rights group publicly urged Iranian authorities this week to stop the execution of Arman Abdolali after he was moved to solitary confinement in a prison in Karaj, west of Tehran.

United Nations human rights experts have also called on Iran to halt Abdolali's execution and annul his death sentence.

"International human rights law unequivocally forbids imposition of the death sentence on anyone under 18 years of age. We understand the authorities have encouraged negotiations about a pardon, but this does not replace the absolute prohibition on such executions," the UN experts said in a statement on October 12.

Abdolali was sentenced to death for murdering his girlfriend, whose name was not given. She disappeared in 2014 and has never been found.

Iranian officials have twice postponed execution plans for Abdolali, most recently in July under international pressure.

Amnesty International has called his trial "grossly unfair" by a court that "relied on torture-tainted 'confessions.'"

A retrial affirmed his criminal responsibility despite questions about his "maturity" at the time of the disappearance.

Amnesty International has demanded a retrial "with fair trial standards generally and those pertaining to children in particular."

(source: rferl.org)

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Halt imminent execution of juvenile offender Arman Abdolali – UN rights experts

UN human rights experts* today urgently appealed to Iran to halt the execution of Arman Abdolali, convicted for an alleged murder committed when he was 17, and demanded that Iran stop sentencing children to death.

Mr. Abdolali is scheduled to be executed tomorrow, but he has been brought back from the gallows at least once before when his execution was called off at the last moment.

"The Iranian authorities must immediately halt the execution of Arman Abdolali and annul his death sentence," the experts said. "International human rights law unequivocally forbids imposition of the death sentence on anyone under 18 years of age. We understand the authorities have encouraged negotiations about a pardon, but this does not replace the absolute prohibition on such executions."

Mr. Abdolali, now 25, was arrested in 2014 in connection with the disappearance of a person known to him. Then still a teenager, he was reportedly held in solitary confinement for 76 days, and subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Authorities reportedly withheld his asthma medication, causing him serious distress and anxiety.

He was convicted mainly on the basis of confessions which he said were given under torture and which he later recanted. He was sentenced to death in 2015, won a retrial in February 2020, but once again was sentenced to death in September last year.

"Mr. Abdolali has had to endure severe mental agony amounting to torture," the experts said. "Starting with his solitary confinement and continuing through a bizarre verdict and executions repeatedly scheduled and postponed, everything about his treatment has been inhumane."

The Supreme Court granted his retrial in February 2020 on the basis of Article 91 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code, which provides alternative sentences for child offenders if there is uncertainty about their "mental maturity." However, the Criminal Court said that seven years after the fact, it was not possible to evaluate his mental maturity, and re-imposed the death sentence.

"This case demonstrates yet again that article 91 of the Penal Code has failed to stop the imposition of death sentence penalty on children," the experts said. There are reportedly more than 85 juvenile offenders on death row in Iran, and another child offender was secretly executed on 2 August.

"We deplore the continued scheduling of executions of child offenders despite ongoing interventions and recommendations by human rights mechanisms," the experts said. "Iran must halt the execution of Mr. Abdolali and unconditionally abolish the sentencing of children to death. It must commute of all death sentences issued against these individuals, in line with its international obligations."

--

* The experts: Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Mikiko Otani , Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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

Juvenile Offender Arman Abdolali’s Parents Summoned for Last Visit

Death row juvenile offender Arman Abdolali’s parents were summoned to Rajai Shahr Prison for their last visit with him hours ago. Arman is scheduled to be executed tomorrow morning.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, Arman Abdolali’s parents were summoned to Rajai Shahr Prison for their last visit with their son hours ago. Arman was transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution yesterday.

Arman Abdolali is a juvenile offender who was arrested on murder charges in 2013 when he was 17 years old. He confessed to the murder at the time of his arrest, but the body was never found and he later withdrew his confession.

Informed sources told Iran Human Rights: “CCTV footage showed Ghazaleh (his alleged victim) leaving the building after meeting Arman. But the police never investigated the evidence.”

Arman’s lawyer had previously pointed to the fact that the pull-up bar Arman had confessed to using as the murder weapon had also never been examined by the police.

Upon arrest, Arman was held in solitary confinement for 74 days where he confessed to the murder. He was subsequently tried and sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) based on the confession, without taking into consideration that he was a juvenile offender.

Days prior to his execution, Arman’s lawyer found out that Ghazaleh had been issued with a leave of absence by her university and her insurance policy had been renewed and used them as evidence to request a retrial.

Two of the judges who had previously sentenced Arman to qisas, opined that further investigations would be required in light of the fact that the letter from her university was dated after the murder was alleged to have taken place. Meanwhile, Ghazaleh’s family gave Arman an extension and opportunity to reveal the location of the body.

His retrial was heard before Branch 5 of the Criminal Court when he was studying for his master’s degree at Shahid Modarres University. Once again, he denied the murder and stated that he did not know where her body was and that she might be alive.

His case was later referred to the Tehran Criminal Court, which found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to qisas. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in February this year.

Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still carries out the death penalty for juvenile offenders. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Islamic Republic is a signatory to, prohibit the issuance and implementation of the death penalty for crimes committed by an individual below 18 years of age.

Yet, according to data collected by IHR and international human rights organisations, the Islamic Republic is responsible for more than 70% of all executions of juvenile offenders in the last 30 years. IHR’s statistics also show that at least 64 juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran over the past 10 years, with at least four executed in 2020.

(source for all: iranhr.net)

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

Iran's hard-liners push to prosecute Rouhani

The lawmakers' formal complaint was appended by a public petition that, among other allegations, accuses Rouhani of betraying Iranians through signing the nuclear deal with the world powers.

An influential committee in Iran's hard-line parliament submitted a concluded investigation and formal lawsuit to the judiciary demanding former President Hassan Rouhani be put on trial. The parliamentarians advancing the complaint argued their probe had established Rouhani's misconduct and failure to honor his presidential duties during his two consecutive terms (2013-2021).

Deputy parliament speaker Abdolreza Mesri, who presided over the Oct. 12 session, declared the lawmakers would respect any decision by the judiciary, "which is an independent entity." Iran's judiciary has traditionally been a conservative entity whose chief is directly appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The post is currently held by hard-line cleric Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei.

Enclosed with the lawmakers' formal complaint was an online petition signed by over half a million "university students, young clerics and people from different walks of life." The document urges the "revolutionary parliament" to pursue the matter until a "firm judicial verdict" is issued against the former president for "devaluing Iran's national currency," "destroying jobs," and "appointing spies and dual nationals" to sensitive positions. Iran's hard-liners have repeatedly claimed the "enemy's intelligence services" infiltrated the Rouhani government's negotiating team, who signed the "humiliating" 2015 nuclear deal with the world powers.

Listing 18 counts, the petition accuses Rouhani of "deception of the public about sanctions removal" as well as "destroying Iran's nuclear technology." It further levels "treason" allegations, punishable by the death penalty under Iran's strict judicial laws.

The signees have also implicated Rouhani in the "deaths of over 200 Iranians" in the November 2019 unrest triggered by fuel price hikes. According to the petition, the increased gasoline price was a Rouhani "sedition." Iran's supreme leader publicly threw his full weight behind the controversial plan and linked the unrest to "foreign enemies" as forces loyal to him carried out the Islamic Republic's deadliest crackdown ever on public protests. Rouhani's role in crushing the unrest has already been highlighted by his predecessor, hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who insists the moderate cleric stand trial for "paving the ground for shedding the blood of Iranians."

Rouhani bid farewell to his post on Aug. 2, handing it over to Ebrahim Raisi who won a landslide victory — albeit in a controversial election marked by the lowest turnout seen in Iran's recent history. Ever since, Rouhani has been unusually absent from public view, making his future political career anyone's guess.

It was not immediately clear if the parliamentarians' lawsuit was more symbolic in nature and how far the Khamenei-controlled judiciary will go after Rouhani. In post-revolution Iran, no former president has been seen in the dock. Yet under Khamenei's leadership, and regardless of their political leanings, they have shared the same destiny: Effectively marginalized, they have fallen from the supreme leader's grace one after another.

(source: al-monitor.com)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

An Arab Israeli Faces the Death Penalty in Dubai----Will Israel intervene and request extradition? Will Arab Members of Knesset blame the Jewish state? The Abraham Accords hit their first major bump

The bilateral relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel have gone through ups and downs as well as a short break during the change of government in Israel. Ministers of the Lapid-Bennett government have already made three trips there, among them a visit by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to inaugurate the new Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Today the relationship is going through an unusual event as the Israel Police have passed on intelligence about a planned drug smuggling operation by an Israeli Arab to the Dubai Police.

Halil Dasuki, a 31-year-old resident of Lod, traveled to Dubai to make a drug deal that would have earned him tens of millions of dollars. He took a gamble, but he lost big. He was arrested last week in Dubai by local police on suspicion of involvement in the trafficking of half a ton of cocaine. Dubai police released his photo along with a picture of the drugs seized in his car on the street in Dubai in what was dubbed “Operation Scorpio.” The drugs are estimated to be worth $136 million.

This arrest is unprecedented. No Israelis have ever been apprehended in this Arab country. This is no minor offense in the Muslim world, and it is one of the biggest drug deals ever seen in the Emirates.

According to published information, it was the Israel Police that informed the Dubai Police regarding Dasuki's intention to smuggle drugs. The Dubai Police had been following the defendant since he landed at Dubai Airport until his capture. He was under constant surveillance by the authorities. Everything he did was documented and even the purchases he made for smuggling were observed.

UAE law allows the death penalty for drug traffickers. It remains unclear whether Dusaki will face such a fate, or if he will instead be given a lengthy prison sentence or extradited to serve jail time in Israel. What is clear is that this man has gotten himself into a lot of trouble. Let’s watch to see what the Israeli authorities or Arab members of Knesset do. Will they rush to intervene to have Dusaki extradited to Israel in order to avoid the death penalty? Or will they blame the Israeli “occupation” for forcing an Arab Israeli to become a criminal?

(source: israeltoday.co.il)

OCTOBER 12, 2021:

TEXAS:

Texas Seven escapee deserves a new trial, judge says----Randy Halprin, who is Jewish, argued he didn’t receive a fair trial because former State District Judge Vickers Cunningham was prejudiced against him.

Texas Seven prison escapee Randy Halprin should get a new trial because the judge in his 2003 capital murder trial harbored anti-Semitic views, a state district judge recommended Monday.

Halprin, who is Jewish, has argued he didn’t receive a fair trial because former State District Judge Vickers Cunningham was prejudiced against him. The state’s highest criminal court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, halted Halprin’s scheduled execution in 2019 and sent the case to Judge Lela Mays for review.

Halprin, 44, was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the killing of Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins on Christmas Eve 2000. He has denied being one of the men who shot Hawkins. Before escaping prison in 2000, Halprin was serving a 30-year sentence for beating a child in Tarrant County.

Mays issued her recommendation Monday. The appeals judges will make the final decision on a new trial.

“In light of all the evidence, this court finds both that Judge Cunningham harbored actual, subjective bias against Halprin because Halprin is a Jew and that Judge Cunningham’s anti-Semitic prejudices created an objectively intolerable risk of bias,” Mays wrote.

Cunningham could not immediately be reached for comment. He has previously declined to comment on the case.

Mays noted that Cunningham presided over jury selection, decided what evidence was allowed in the trial and what was excluded, gave instructions to the jury and delivered the death sentence.

“Judge Cunningham’s bias towards Halprin not only harmed him, but it undermined the public’s confidence that criminal justice has been — and will be — dispensed impartially,” Mays wrote.

She pointed to a decision Cunningham made to deny Halprin’s lawyers from showing jurors a document ranking each of the seven escapees’s culpability according to their personalities and leadership qualities. The ranking, conducted by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, listed Halprin last and called him the weakest member of the group.

Cunningham’s denial of that document was a critical ruling, Mays wrote.

“Jurors could have found the ranking document corroborated Halprin’s testimony about his subordinate role in the group of escapees, testimony the prosecution urged the jury not to believe,” she said.

Tivon Schardl, one of Halprin’s lawyers, said in a written statement that Mays “undoubtedly made the right call.”

”The facts were never in dispute,” Schardl said. “Contrary to what the state said, the Constitution protects Texans from religious bigotry in the criminal justice system. We’re confident the Court of Criminal Appeals will reach the same conclusion and order a new, fair trial for Randy Halprin.”

Cunningham was alleged to have called Halprin “that [expletive] Jew” — and worse — during his trial. He denied the allegation, saying that the accusations were “lies from my estranged brother and his friends.”

His brother, Bill Cunningham, came to The Dallas Morning News in 2018 and said Vic Cunningham was a lifelong racist.

The then-judge said he wasn’t a bigot but confirmed that a trust fund set up for his children includes a stipulation that is intended to discourage them from marrying a person of another race or of the same sex.

Tarrant County prosecutors have handled the appeal after Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot recused his office from the case.

Prosecutor Anne Grady argued that evidence doesn’t show Cunningham’s personal bias affected the case. She argued Cunningham’s comments about Halprin were made years after the trial and, therefore, did not show he was prejudiced against Halprin during the trial.

Defense lawyers Ed “Bubba” King and George Ashford III, who represented Halprin at his trial, have disputed claims that Cunningham denied him a fair trial because he is Jewish.

Cunningham, who was a prosecutor before becoming judge, was generally tough on defense lawyers, they said. But they never got the sense he was prejudiced against Halprin because he was Jewish.

All the other members of the Texas Seven were sentenced to death except for Larry Harper, who killed himself before being captured. Four have been executed; only Patrick Murphy, 60, remains on death row with Halprin.

(source: Dallas Morning News)

USA:

Justice Department to Argue for Death Penalty in Boston Marathon Case

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument about whether to reinstate the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Wednesday—two days after the Boston Marathon is held for the first time since 2019.

Mr. Tsarnaev was convicted and sentenced to death for participating with his older brother, Tamerlan, in a bombing that killed three people at the Boston Marathon in April 2013.

On July 31, 2020, a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit overturned his death sentences because the trial judge did not adequately question potential jurors about their exposure to widespread and graphic media coverage about the case.

Reports and images of the crime “flashed across the TV, computer, and smartphone screens of a terrified public — around the clock, often in real time,” the court wrote. “One could not turn on the radio either without hearing something about these stunningly sad events.”

But when Mr. Tsarnaev stood trial about two years later “in a courthouse just miles from where the bombs went off,” the trial judge did not follow clear precedent requiring that he ask questions sufficient to root out jurors who had already formed an opinion about Mr. Tsarnaev’s culpability based on pretrial publicity.

“A core promise of our criminal justice system is that even the very worst among us deserves to be fairly tried and lawfully punished,” the court wrote. “[D]espite a diligent effort, the judge here did not meet th[at] standard.”

At trial, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev conceded that he did what the government alleged but argued he should not be sentenced to death because his older brother, Tamerlan—who died after police shot him during the manhunt that followed the bombing—planned, led, and directed the bombing and intimidated him into participating.

The trial judge improperly barred the defense from presenting evidence that Tamerlan had previously killed three people, the First Circuit held, because that evidence could have persuaded the jury not to sentence Dzhokhar to death by showing he was less culpable than Tamerlan and acted under his brother’s influence.

The federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing trial.

In October 2020, the Trump administration’s Justice Department filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the case, which the Court granted on March 22, 2021.

Since President Joe Biden—who campaigned on ending the death penalty—came into office, the Justice Department has notified federal courts that it is no longer seeking the death penalty in multiple cases where the death penalty had been authorized by the Trump administration. Many observers expected the department to do the same in this case.

But in a brief to the Supreme Court in June 2021, the Justice Department instead asked the Court to reverse the appeals court and reinstate the death penalty.

Many have questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland’s July 2021 announcement that no federal executions will be scheduled while the department reviews the federal execution protocol and manner of execution regulations in light of its appeal in this case.

(source: eji.org)

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Legal experts and death row exoneree answer your biggest questions about the death penalty----A group of death penalty experts talked with The Independent about innocence, deterence, and other big questions

The US may be one of the few wealthy nations that still regularly executes its citizens, but there is plenty the public doesn’t understand about America’s deep attachment to capital punishment.

So we called the experts to help clear things up.

As part of The Independent’s campaign calling for an end to the death penalty, we had readers submit questions to Herman Lindsey, a former Florida death row inmate who was later exonerated and is now a board member of Witness to Innocence, a reform group; Lena Patel and Ben Cumming, our campaign partners at the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice; Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, staff attorney at The Exoneration Project; and Josh Marcus, a US reporter at The Independent. Here’s what they said.

Q: Hey Herman, thanks for doing this. What was the hardest part about being on death row? Did you ever lose hope?

A: The hardest part is being placed on death row for a crime I didn’t commit and realizing our justice system can allow this to happen. I lost hope because I didn’t expect the same justice system that put me there to free me.

Q: What kind of support is there for the death penalty in the US, and has it changed over the years?

Herman: Along with other death row exonerees at Witness to Innocence, I’ve been doing workshops with prosecutors around the country and have also testified in legislatures and spoken to lots of college students. All of this is impacting public opinion, which is at an all-time low for the death penalty now. It is great how Responsible Business Initiative for Justice is getting the business community involved in this fight.

Ben: I think what we are witnessing is the normalization of the anti-death penalty stance. The brokenness of the justice system is the most glaring social issue facing an American generation, and the death penalty embodies all of its flaws—racism, cruelty, ineffectiveness, waste. We are seeing rapidly growing appreciation of that across different stakeholder groups.

Arguably the strongest indicator of this shift is the growing support for abolition by conservatives. Virginia becoming the first Southern state to abolish (as well as the most bloody in terms of executions)—as well as promising efforts in states like Utah—all point to a truly bipartisan push to end capital punishment.

Josh: Overall, support for the death penalty peaked in the late 1990s.

It has gradually been declining since, though a majority of Americans still favour it, according to this Pew poll.

Interestingly, once you dig deeper into those numbers, some interesting stats jump out.For instance, large majorities think the death penalty does not deter serious crime, and risks putting innocent people to death.

Other polls suggest a majority of people support alternatives to the death penalty for crimes like murder.

Lauren: Thanks for this question. I’ll just add that sometimes the changes in society’s view of the death penalty are reflected in the courts. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and lower courts look at the “evolving standards of decency” when determining whether the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment. We’ve seen SCOTUS prohibit the death penalty against juveniles and those with intellectual disabilities based in part on these “evolving standards of decency.”

Q: Can the president unilaterally abolish the death penalty? What are some of the political obstacles facing lawmakers to getting legislation done, or is it a matter of political willpower to do it?

Lena: The President cannot unilaterally abolish the death penalty. It is a matter of political will. Unfortunately despite the amazing work done over the years by campaign organisations, law makers tend to revert back to their tough on crime stance. That is why we need business voices and investors working with campaign organisations to support abolition efforts and provide the cover law makers need.

Herman: Thanks Lena, I just want to add that politicians want votes. If the voters are pushing to abolish the death penalty, more politicians get aboard because they want the votes when going for re-election.

Josh: Another thing to consider is that there are two death penalties, in a way: the separate state and federal execution systems.

As our Washington correspondent Eric Garcia reported, on the campaign trail Joe Biden called for legislation to end the death penalty, but so far hasn’t done much to accomplish that.

His agenda on criminal justice as a whole has taken a back seat to Covid and the infrastructure bill. He could commute the sentences of all those on federal row using executive action, which would be a major step, but wouldn’t end the practice altogether. The state level is really where we’re likely to see the most abolition, and Utah is one of the major places to watch right now.

Q: Doesn’t the death penalty deter murders and other capital crimes? What are the stats on that?

Ben : Hi Gorak, while causal links can be tricky to establish, we do know that states that abolish the death penalty show no corresponding uptick in homicides. In fact, states that use the death penalty have higher rates. We see this replicated around the world (i.e. countries that abolish see a downward trend in homicide).

This is borne out by the latest behavioural science, which tells us that crime isn’t deterred by the severity of the punishment, but rather the likelihood of getting caught.

Herman: Yes, I agree. Most people committing criminal activities are not thinking about the death penalty. The thought of the death penalty do not scare them. The question at hand during the process is rather would they get caught, and if the chances are high they may turn away from committing that crime. I don’t believe any one is saying, “I will get the death penalty so I shouldn’t do this.”

Josh: As Sir Richard Branson, one of our campaign partners noted during an interview with The Independent in New York, most of Europe has also outlawed the death penalty and hasn’t seen a spike in violent crimes.

Q: Can individual states be stopped from going ahead with an execution?

Lauren :Yes, the defendant can seek a stay by the courts, which can go up to the US Supreme Court. A governor can also stop an execution, often by commuting the sentence to something lesser (like life in prison). There have been instances where a governor has cleared death row, like in Illinois in 2003. There can also be a moratorium issued, which means no executions will move forward while the moratorium is in place. This can be done by the governor in a state, or federally by the US Attorney General.

Q: What surprised you? Any fact or figure that Americans might be surprised to learn?

Josh: I think what struck me most was the kind of time delay inherent in death penalty cases. It can be decades between when someone is convicted of the underlying crime and when the actual execution is scheduled, owing to the appeals process, and other delays like new politicians taking office with differing views.

As a result, death penalty cases in the present day often reflect problems—outdated policing practices, biases from another era—that were present many years ago.

Many of those on death row were convicted long before things like the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, which reframed how numerous Americans saw the criminal justice system.

Ben: The discrimination is staggering too. The racial bias is horrific—a direct descendant of lynching—Black people are four times more likely to be given a death sentence than white people for an equivalent crime.

Josh: Agreed. And what’s more, I was stunned to learn that after a 1987 Supreme Court ruling called McClesky v. Kemp, courts have largely been barred from considering statistically proven racial bias in a given state’s death penalty system as a reason for overturning sentences. In other words, racial bias has to be proven at the individual level—a juror making racist remarks, for example—for a death sentence to be called into question. Of course, most people rarely make such explicit gestures, and the bias in the justice system is often at the unconscious, systemic level.

Q: What sort of work do you do? What are the best ways to support your efforts?

Lena: Our organisaton works with businesses to use their platforms and voices to champion change around criminal justice reform. We do this in a number of ways: through our campaign efforts and through events and media - to shift the narrative and show that businesses care about this issue. We launched a campaign in March called Business Leaders Against the Death Penalty - you can find more information at our website. 150 business leaders have added their name including Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and Paul Polman, If you are a business owner, please sign up and support our effort. We will use the campaign alongside efforts calling for abolition.

Ben: The latest polling tells us that 6 in 10 Americans feel its unacceptable for business leaders to stay silent on social issues

Business leaders have powerful voices and platforms and are listened to by policy makers and decision makers. Working alongside campaign organisations, their influence can make a huge difference. Through our campaign, we are seeing decision makers take note of the businesses giving us their support.

When employers and investors speak out, lawmakers listen. By using their voice and resources to support an end to the death penalty, they can help drive abolition campaigns and build on the incredible work of tireless campaigners and advocates (like Witness to Innocence!) over the line.

Herman: My work is with Witness to Innocence, an organization of, by and for death row exonerees. We use our personal testimony of being innocent on death row to change public opinion on the death penalty, motivate legislators to support abolition, and help prosecutors find ways to prevent wrongful conviction.

The best way to support WTI is to help us abolish the death penalty. We have info on our website about

•how to help people currently on death row who may be innocent

•state campaigns for abolition

•short films you can share to educate others.

Join exonerees in this fight!

Laurent: I represent innocent people who have been wrongly convicted. I focus my work in Illinois, where we are fortunate to have abolished the death penalty, but I have cases in other states where the death penalty is still active. I also have clients who spent time on death row in Illinois and are still serving life sentences (or at least what amounts to life).

The innocence movement intersects with the death penalty abolition efforts because so many exonerees who were proven innocent were on death row. Witness to Innocence is a fantastic organization where death row exonerees speak to their experiences and fight to end the death penalty. We also know that innocent people have been executed. That alone should end the death penalty - it proves that the system can be fallible, unjust, and unfair.

But even beyond innocence, I have seen through my career that no one is their worst act. Things are not as black and white as people would like to believe they are. I could go on and on, but the best way to support the innocence movement and the fight to end the death penalty is to educate yourself, like you are doing here! Knowledge is power and effects change - in politics, in the courts, on juries, in your community.

(source: The Independent)

GLOBAL:

Abolition of the death penalty for drug offences is a mission possible----Human rights groups have repeatedly argued that drug offenses do not fall into the category of ‘the most serious crimes.’ Yet the death penalty for drug offenses appears to be on the rise.

In August 2021, a bill was tabled in Tonga’s Parliament to introduce the death penalty for drug offences. Because Tonga is a small archipelago country in the Pacific, the implications of this regressive development to the global human rights debate were therefore easy to dismiss.

This is a concerning shift because although there is already a death penalty in Tonga for murder and treason, the last executions occurred in 1982. The introduction of a new cause for death penalty certainly demonstrates the potency of the war on drugs narrative to resurrect the desire for it after nearly four decades of de facto moratorium.

It also confirms the paradox of the global state of the death penalty. Since the 1970s, there has been a growing trend towards abolishing the death penalty for all crimes. However, more countries have passed legislation imposing the death penalty for drug offences. In 1979, it was estimated that only 10 countries prescribed the death penalty for drugs. By the year 2000, the numbers of countries had risen to 36.

Tonga’s recent passage is not an isolated phenomenon. Bangladesh expanded the application of the death penalty to new drug offences in 2018. And a year later, President Sirisena of Sri Lanka announced the signing of a death warrant for four drug convicts—a move that was largely inspired by President Duterte’s bloody drug war in the Philippines. If the execution was resumed, it would put an end to a 43-year moratorium on executions in Sri Lanka. Earlier this year, a bill that would reinstate the death penalty for drugs was adopted by the Philippines’ House of Representatives.

Since the 1970s, there has been a growing trend towards abolishing the death penalty for all crimes. However, more countries have passed legislation imposing the death penalty for drug offences.

Human rights groups have repeatedly argued that drug offenses do not fall into the category of ‘the most serious crimes’ for which the death penalty may be permitted under international human rights law. Yet the death penalty for drug offenses appears to be on the rise, and it remains one of authoritarian leaders’ preferred tools for garnering popular support and quelling dissent. What are some possible solutions to this troubling proclivity?

In most jurisdictions where the death penalty for drugs operates, retentionist arguments normally revolve around two major points: deterrence effect and public opinion. I would say that there is no such thing as deterrence. A rational choice theorist would probably argue that if chances of being arrested and/or convicted are low, or even if the risk is high, but the benefit of committing such crimes outweighs the costs, rational offenders will commit the offenses regardless of the severity of punishment. In some of these retentionist countries, offenders can even bribe the law apparatus to prevent the possibility of being sentenced to death. Nevertheless, there are not enough rigorous studies to prove that the death penalty works to curb drug offences.

Meanwhile, on the question of public opinion, retentionist governments tend to rationalize their position, citing high levels of public support for punishing measures. They usually rely on polls conducted by mainstream media in which the question is a simple “yes” or “no.” Anywhere in the world, including in abolitionist countries, for example in the United Kingdom or France, if people are asked whether they are in favor of the death penalty or not, they would incline to say “yes.” However, this simple binary question masks the complexity of the death penalty.

A recent public opinion study in Indonesia, carried out by Oxford University, reveals interesting and significant outcomes. Almost 70% of the respondents expressed support for the death penalty. However, only 2% of respondents were well-informed and only 4% were very concerned about the issue. The study also revealed that 54% of death penalty supporters believed it would deter drug offenses. But when asked which measures are most likely to reduce drug crimes, the vast majority chose more effective policing, better education for the next generation, and social measures to alleviate poverty. Only a few mentioned more death sentences and execution. When respondents were presented with realistic scenario cases, only 14% supported the death penalty for drug trafficking. Public opinion studies in Trinidad (2011), Malaysia (2013), Japan (2015), and Zimbabwe (2018) all yielded similar results. The findings of all these reports imply that, on a broad level, public support for the death sentence for drug offenses is strong, but this support is based on a lack of understanding. When confronted with real-life examples, public support for the death penalty plummets, and the public becomes increasingly open to alternatives to the death sentence.

More robust studies that investigate the issue in greater depth and generate a more nuanced and sophisticated knowledge of the issue are thus needed to definitively refute the deterrence and public opinion arguments. This type of research, however, is costly. More donors and abolitionist states should support this project and the subsequent advocacy strategy, so that local civil society can effectively utilize it to further the abolition agenda.

When confronted with real-life examples, public support for the death penalty plummets, and the public becomes increasingly open to alternatives to the death sentence.

Although adequate resources to support research projects are available, abolition of the death penalty will not occur overnight. A critical component to help disempower the death penalty regime should be strengthened: legal representation. Almost everyone on death row for drug offenses is a poor and vulnerable person exploited by the syndicates. Early and competent legal assistance from the time of arrest can be a life-saving means for people facing the death penalty.

Unfortunately, despite the presence of qualified human rights and criminal defense lawyers in many death penalty jurisdictions, only a few lawyers are willing to brave the stigma and represent drug defendants facing death penalty charges. Even if there are lawyers available to assist persons facing the death penalty, they are usually underfunded. Because the less likely it is for judges to impose death sentences, the more likely it is that we will achieve a de facto moratorium, paving the way for abolition. At the end of the day, more efforts to support, build capacity, and sensitize lawyers are required.

Finally, when pressed with questions on how to address drug trafficking, human rights advocates should be able to articulate alternatives to the death penalty. It is important to assert that the death penalty is ineffective in deterring illicit drug trade. However, as we have seen with the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and now Tonga, articulation alone is insufficient. How do we tackle the so-called drug problem in a way that does not perpetuate and extend drug prohibitionist premise?

To answer that, we need an open and honest public debate about drugs, drug use, and the illicit drug economy, beyond “just say no.” We can begin by destigmatizing drugs and questioning the rationale for the drug war. Only then will we be able to move closer to our goal of abolishing the death penalty for drug offenses.

(source: Ricky Gunawan is a program officer with the Global Drug Policy Program, Open Society Foundations, and an Indonesian human rights lawyer. He holds an MA in Theory and Practice of Human Rights from the University of Essex----openglobalrights.org)

INDIA:

5 get death penalty for killing a student in Rajshahi

A Rajshahi court on Tuesday sentenced 5 people to death for killing a college student in the New Market area of Rajshahi city 11 years ago.

The death row convicts are - Azizur Rahman alias Rajon, Sajjad Hossain alias Saju, Md Rinku alias Boya, Ismail Hossain and Mahabur Rashid alias Rentu.

9 others accused in the case were acquitted as the charges brought against them were not proved.

Rajshahi Speedy Trial Tribunal Judge Anup Kumar Saha passed the order around 11am. Public prosecutor Entazul Haque Babu confirmed the news to The Business Standard.

The student named Raju Ahmed was stabbed to death by miscreants on the night of 15 March 2010 in the New Market area of Rajshahi. He was an HSC candidate of Daokandi Degree College of Durgapur in Rajshahi.

Hailing from Hasnipur village of Bagmara upazila, he used to stay with a friend at the Mannaf junction in the city.

In the evening the victim had come to the New Market area to repair his computer.

He was attacked and stabbed by miscreants behind a restaurant at the western end of New Market.

Locals rescued Raju and took him to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital. He died that night while undergoing treatment there.

(source: tbsnews.net)

PAKISTAN:

Death penalty

The world has moved forward in the past couple of decades in terms of human rights and penalties given to criminals. There emerged – over the years and across the world – near-consensus regarding the undesirability of the death penalty. Human-rights organisations have particularly taken a principled stand against the application of the death penalty against juveniles and the mentally ill. Unfortunately, Pakistan lifted a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty in 2014, resulting in a high rate of execution within a couple of years. In just 2 years, from 2015 to 2017, Pakistan accounted for 13 percent of the executions carried out in the world. According to data, of 3,659 executions in the world, 479 were carried out in Pakistan. In 2015 alone, Pakistan executed 20 percent of the global executions. Even now, Pakistan has an unenviable distinction of retaining the largest reported death row in the world, with over 3,800 prisoners reported to be waiting on the death row in the country.

The judicial system in Pakistan continues to prescribe capital punishment for over 33 crimes including non-lethal offences. Over one-fourth of all death sentences worldwide are handed over in Pakistan alone. Punjab is leading in the number of women on death row. The judicial system in the country is disproportionately skewed against minorities and women who are already vulnerable in society. Even during trials, minorities and women find it challenging to advocate for their innocence as severe socio-economic deprivation coupled with widespread illiteracy diminishes their chances of getting a fair trial and a just verdict. Research has shown convincingly that the death penalty is not at all a major factor in reducing heinous crimes. There are so many other factors that determine an increase or decrease in crimes, and the death penalty does not appear to be a deciding contributor in crime reduction. If fear of the noose truly did deter would-be-murderers it would have shown up in the statistics by now.

Perhaps the clinching argument against the death penalty is the awesome power it hands to the state. Even if Pakistan were a perfectly-governed country, one should be wary of giving so much power to the government. But the reality is that our criminal justice system is deeply corrupt and inefficient. Torture of suspects is routine, defendants who cannot afford lawyers are given substandard representation and evidence is often planted or withheld. Marginalised and vulnerable segments of society are less knowledgeable and less empowered to navigate Pakistan’s existing criminal justice system. This World Day Against the Death Penalty (October 10) we were again reminded of the need to make meaningful improvements in our criminal justice system. Due process must prevail and the most vulnerable must not face any discrimination in this matter. If we insist on keeping the death penalty, it should be a punishment of the last resort, used only for very few crimes. There should be absolutely no question about the person’s guilt and death row prisoners have to be given access to competent legal help. At the moment, we are not doing very well on all these counts.

(source: Editorial, The News)

IRAN:

Halt imminent execution of young man arrested at 17

The Iranian authorities must immediately halt the planned execution of a young man who was sentenced to death for a crime that took place when he was a child, following a grossly unfair trial marred by torture-tainted “confessions”, Amnesty International said today.

Arman Abdolali was moved to solitary confinement in Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj in preparation for his execution on Wednesday 13 October. His execution was scheduled twice before – in July 2021 and in January 2020 – but was halted both times after an international outcry.

“Time is rapidly running out, the Iranian authorities must immediately halt all plans to execute Arman Abdolali on 13 October. Use of the death penalty against people who were under 18 at the time the crime was committed is prohibited under international law and constitutes an abhorrent assault on child rights,” said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“The Iranian authorities are demonstrating their ruthless intent to resort to the death penalty in complete disregard for their obligations under international law by scheduling Arman Abdolali’s execution for a third time. Global action helped to stop Arman Abdolali’s previously scheduled executions, we now urge the international community, including the UN and EU, to urgently intervene to save his life.”

Arman Abdolali was first sentenced to death in December 2015 after being convicted of murder in a grossly unfair trial, in which the court relied on torture-tainted “confessions”, in connection with the disappearance of his girlfriend in 2014. Her body was never found; the court stated that the murder had been committed without leaving any trace indicating that Arman Abdolali had attained “mental maturity” and understood the nature and consequences of the crime. The international legal prohibition on sentencing people who were children when they allegedly committed the crime to death is absolute, therefore is not subject to claims of “maturity” or “understanding the crime”.

In reaching this decision, the court also relied on the opinion of a Children and Adolescent Court Advisor who stated that Arman Abdolali understood the “abhorrent” nature of the crime. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in July 2016. The trial and appeal verdicts both noted Arman Abdolali’s allegations that he was held in prolonged solitary confinement for 76 days and repeatedly beaten to “confess”, but no investigation was ordered and the “confessions” were described by the court as “unequivocal”.

In February 2020, the Supreme Court granted him a retrial after the Children and Adolescent Court Advisor withdrew her initial opinion, saying it had been issued without meeting him in person or studying his casefile. His retrial, at Branch 5 of Criminal Court One of Tehran Province, largely focused on whether there were doubts about his “maturity” at the time of the crime.

In September 2020, the court ruled that it was not possible to determine Arman Abdolali’s “maturity” so many years after the crime had taken place and ruled that in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, his criminal responsibility stands.

Given these deeply flawed proceedings, Amnesty International is also calling on the Iranian authorities to quash Arman Abdolali’s conviction and grant him a retrial in line with fair trial standards generally and those pertaining to children in particular, without resorting to coerced “confessions” or use of the death penalty.

Under Iranian law, in cases of murder and certain other capital crimes, boys aged above 15 lunar years and girls aged above 9 lunar years are treated as adults and can be sentenced to death. However, Article 91 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code grants judges the discretion to replace the death penalty with an alternative sentence if they believe there are doubts about the individual’s “maturity” at the time of the crime. In practice, there is no clarity over the evidence and the standards of proof needed to demonstrate “full maturity”.

“This case highlights the deeply flawed nature of Iran’s child justice system. We again urge the Iranian authorities to put an end to the violations of the right to life and children’s rights by amending the Penal Code to ban the use of the death penalty against anyone who was under 18 at the time of the crime without exception, pending the full abolition of the death penalty,” said Diana Eltahawy.

Iran continues to use the death penalty for crimes committed by people under the age of 18, in violation of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The authorities executed at least 3 people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the offence in 2020. Earlier this year, they executed in secret Sajad Sanjari, a young man who was 15 at the time of the offence. Scores of people similarly convicted of crimes committed when they were children remain on death row in Iran. In 2020, Iran carried out at least 246 executions securing the shameful place of 2nd top executioner worldwide.

(source: Amnesty International)

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

Juvenile Offender Arman Abdolali Scheduled to be Executed in 24 Hours

Death row juvenile offender Arman Abdolali has been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution. According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, he is due to be executed on Wednesday, October 13.

Iran Human Rights calls on the international community to take action to save Arman Abdolali’s life. “Executing juvenile offenders is a serious violation of international law. At this point, only pressure from the international community can save Arman’s life. We call on states who have diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic to take action to save Arman’s life before it’s too late,” said Iran Human Rights Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.

Arman Abdolali is a juvenile offender who was arrested on murder charges in 2013. He confessed to the murder at the time of his arrest, but the body was never found and he later withdrew his confession.

The preliminary court had sentenced Arman to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder without taking into consideration that he was a juvenile offender.

Days prior to his execution, Arman’s lawyer found out that Ghazaleh (the victim) had been issued with a leave of absence by her university and her insurance policy had been renewed and used them as evidence to request a retrial.

Two of the judges who had previously sentenced Arman to qisas, opined that further investigations would be required in light of the fact that the letter from her university was dated after the murder was alleged to have taken place. Meanwhile, Ghazaleh’s family gave Arman an extension and opportunity to reveal the location of the body.

His retrial was heard before Branch 5 of the Criminal Court when he was studying for his master’s degree at Shahid Modarres University. Once again, he denied the murder and stated that he did not know where her body was and that she might be alive.

His case was later referred to the Tehran Criminal Court, which found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to qisas. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in February this year.

Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still carries out the death penalty for juvenile offenders. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Islamic Republic is a signatory to, prohibit the issuance and implementation of the death penalty for crimes committed by an individual below 18 years of age.

Yet, according to data collected by IHR and international human rights organisations, the Islamic Republic is responsible for more than 70% of all executions of juvenile offenders in the last 30 years. IHR’s statistics also show that at least 64 juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran over the past 10 years, with at least four executed in 2020.

Given the security state and repression of civil society activists and the limited contact with prisoners, it is likely that the number of juvenile executions is much higher than recorded.

(source: iranhr.net)

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

Iran accused of breaching international law over planned execution----Arman Abdolali was 17 when he was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend----Since 2020, Iran has executed at least four people who were aged under 18 at the time the crimes were committed.

Iran is preparing to execute a man convicted of a crime that took place when he was still a child under international law.

He was sentenced to death followed an unfair trial marred by confessions obtained through torture, according to a human rights group.

Arman Abdolali has been moved to solitary confinement in Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj, on the outskirts of Tehran, in preparation for his execution on Wednesday, Amnesty International said.

Arman Abdolali has been moved to solitary in preparation for his execution this week.

Iran has signed an international agreement that outlaws the use of the death penalty against people who committed crimes while children. Abdolali was 17 when he was arrested.

He was sentenced to death in December 2015 after being convicted of murdering his girlfriend who disappeared a year earlier. Her body has never been found. The sentence was upheld in 2016 and he lost an appeal last year.

His execution has twice been scheduled in January 2020 and in July this year but was stopped after an international outcry, according to the group.

The United Nations has repeatedly condemned Iran for executing child offenders, saying it was a breach of international law. Iran signed a UN deal banning the practice in 1968, which was ratified 7 years later.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says “the sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age” or pregnant women.

But under Iranian law, some crimes – including murder – can be treated as capital offences for those under 18. Amnesty called for a retrial for Abdolali and said the death sentence used in such cases was an “abhorrent assault on child rights”.

“The Iranian authorities are demonstrating their ruthless intent to resort to the death penalty in complete disregard for their obligations under international law by scheduling Arman Abdolali’s execution for a third time,” said Diana Eltahawy, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

The Iranian authorities in August executed Sajad Sanjari, who was 15 when he was accused of stabbing a man to death. He claimed he was acting in self-defence.

Iran also executed at least three other people in 2020 who were under 18 at the time their crimes were committed.

Iran executes more prisoners than any other country bar China.

(source: thenationalnews.com)

YEMEN:

EU calls on Houthis' to revoke death sentences against journalists

The European Union yesterday called for death sentences issued against Yemeni journalists and activists to be revoked.

"On the occasion of the World Day Against Death Penalty, the EU calls for revoking all death sentences, including those of journalists and activists in Yemen," the commission's delegation in Yemen said on Twitter, adding that the EU "strongly opposes death penalty at all times and in all circumstances. It continues to work for the universal abolishment of death penalty."

On #WorldDayAgainstDeathPenalty, #EUinYemen calls for revoking all death sentences, incl those of journalists and activists in #Yemen. The EU strongly opposes death penalty at all times and in all circumstances. It continues to work for the universal abolishment of death penalty. pic.twitter.com/8MFfl1zUdu — EUinYemen (@EUinYemen) October 10, 2021

Impoverished Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when the Houthis overran much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.

The war, in which the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) back the Saudi-led coalition, has killed more than 100,000 people and pushed millions to the brink of famine, according to the United Nations (UN) official data.

On 18 September, the Iranian-backed militia executed 9 residents of the Yemeni province of Hudaydah, in one of the most prominent squares in the capital city of Sanaa for allegedly "participating in the killing of one of their leaders, Saleh Al-Sammad." The move was condemned by local and international governments.

(source: middleeastmonitor.com)

IRAQ:

Iraq hands death sentence to Daesh's 'Sharia judge'

An Iraqi court today handed a death sentence to Daesh's "Sharia judge" after convicting him of killing 5 security forces in the country.

According to a statement by the Supreme Judicial Council: "The Criminal Court in Saladin Governorate decided to execute the Sharia judge of Daesh, after convicting him of killing 5 members of the security forces."

The statement indicated that "the accused participated in several terrorist operations, including the detonation of an explosive device on an Iraqi army patrol, which led to the killing of 5 security personnel, in addition to other crimes."

The statement did not reveal the name of the accused.

According to Iraqi law, it is a preliminary ruling and is subject to appeal before the Federal Court of Cassation within 30 days.

Daesh members are tried under the Anti-Terrorism Law, which stipulates the death penalty for anyone who has committed a terrorist act.

The execution of death sentences requires the approval of the country's president.

(source: middleeastmonitor.com)

FRANCE/EUROPEAN UNION:

As France Prepares to Assume Presidency of European Union, Emmanuel Macron Announces Initiative for Worldwide Abolition of Death Penalty

At a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of France’s abolition of the death penalty, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an initiative to advance worldwide abolition of capital punishment. The announcement also coincided with World Day Against the Death Penalty, which is observed annually on October 10.

In January 2022, France will assume the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. Macron said, “As part of the French presidency of the European Union, we will organize … a meeting in Paris at the highest level, bringing together civil societies from countries that still apply the death penalty … in order to convince their leaders of the importance and urgency of abolishing it.” Macron spoke of France’s role as a leader in ending the death penalty, saying that, in 1981, it became the 35th nation to abolish capital punishment. Today, he said, “106 states have so far taken this path, while 50 others have a de jure or de facto moratorium on executions.”

Macron lamented that at least 483 executions were carried out worldwide in 2020, describing them as, “483 state killings carried out by 33 regimes that mostly share a taste for despotism, a rejection of the universality of human rights.” Noting that the 483 executions were “almost certainly an underestimate,” he also announced efforts to pass a United Nations resolution requiring countries to report the number of death sentences and executions. Amnesty International reports on death sentences and executions each year, but notes that China, North Korea, and Vietnam consider executions and death sentences to be state secrets and do not release information on their use of the death penalty. China alone is estimated to execute over 1,000 people per year.

Macron spoke alongside Robert Badinter, who served as justice minister in the administration of President François Mitterrand and led the successful effort to end capital punishment in France. Badinter said, “I want to share with you my absolute conviction that the death penalty must disappear from the entire world as it is a shame for humanity. The death penalty does not protect society, it dishonours it.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

European Union presses for worldwide suppression of the death penalty

The European Union (EU) has insisted governments should move forward with abolishing the death penalty worldwide.

“The EU will continue using all its available tools of diplomacy and cooperation assistance to work towards the abolition of the death penalty in countries where it still applies. The EU is a leading institutional actor and the lead donor to the efforts by civil society organizations around the world in the abolition of the death penalty”, the EU said in a statement over the weekend marking the World/European Day Against The Death Penalty.

In South America, Guyanan judges continue to hand down death sentences which are not carried out. The European authorities would like that country to turn its de facto moratorium into a de jure moratorium as a step prior to the full abolition of the death penalty. In December, 2018, for the first time, Guyana shifted its stance from opposing a moratorium on the death penalty, and instead, abstained from the vote at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The EU asserted that the imposition of the death penalty contravenes the right to life. It also argued that the death penalty does not deter crime more effectively that other punishments.

Though death sentences continue to be handed down by the courts here, the penalty has not been enforced here since August of 1997.

French President Emmanuel Macron Saturday announced his country had launched a campaign for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, which he described as an “abomination,” as part of France's upcoming presidency of the European Union.

During a speech marking the 40th anniversary of France’s abolition of capital punishment, Macron said a conference would be held in Paris shortly while France holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council in the 1st half of 2022.

The French head of state also vowed to work with other member states towards a United Nations resolution requiring countries to report each year the number of death penalty sentences handed down and executions carried out.

Macron recalled that, in 1981, France had been “the 35th state to abolish the death penalty”. He added that “106 states have so far taken this path, while 50 others have a de jure or de facto moratorium on executions.” But he noted with regret that “483 executions” were carried out worldwide in 2020 “by 33 regimes that mostly share a taste for despotism, a rejection of the universality of human rights,“ which included the United States and Japan.

"The death penalty does not protect society, it dishonours it,” Macron said.

(source: en.mercopress.com)

GERMANY:

Foreign Minister Maas on the World Day against the Death Penalty -- press release

Foreign Minister Maas issued the following statement Sunday (10 October) on the occasion of the World Day against the Death Penalty:

The death penalty is a cruel and irreversible punishment which Germany categorically rejects. It not only violates the right to life but is also incompatible with the dignity of the individual.

Although there is an international trend towards suspending and abolishing the death penalty, more than 50 states continue to impose it. Just a handful of countries are responsible for the vast majority of executions.

Our goal is to abolish this relic from the past once and for all.

To this end, we will bring together governments and civil society in Berlin next year for the largest international forum on this issue: the 8th World Congress against the Death Penalty.

Background information:

The World Congress against the Death Penalty will take place in Berlin from 16 November 2022. It will bring together politicians, human rights defenders, survivors, artists and academics. The aim is to support the work done by local stakeholders, persuade states to make concrete commitments and mobilise the public.

In Europe, Belarus is the only country to use the death penalty. International observers estimate that most executions last year were carried out in China. Although China itself does not publish any figures, Amnesty International believes that thousands of death sentences are imposed and carried out in the country every year. Iran carried out in excess of 246 executions last year.

Working to abolish the death penalty is a priority of German human rights policy. Germany, together with its partners in the European Union, is therefore actively campaigning against the death penalty, including in international fora such as the United Nations or the OSCE.

(source: auswaertiges-amt.de)

TUNISIA:

World Day Against the Death Penalty - 26 NGOs Call for Ratifying International and Regional Protocols

On the World Day against the Death Penalty, 26 civil society organisations, on Monday, called for the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Additional Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, on the abolition of death penalty.

In a joint statement, The NGOs called for ending recent legislation applying the death penalty to new crimes as well as the reviewing the Penal Code and the Code of Military Justice.

This year's theme of the 19th World Day Against the Death Penalty is "Women and the Death Penalty, an Invisible Reality".

6% of women prosecuted are sentenced to death in Tunisia, said the organisations that signed the joint statement.

The signatories denounced the legal, economic and social segregation against women which often leads to unjust and unfair trials and verdicts, including death sentences.

"The prejudices caused by this segregation do not take into account the mitigating conditions of the arrest and the trial of women who are often victims of violence and sexual assault. Female prisoners, sentenced to death, are often subjected to painful physical and psychological detention conditions," they affirmed.

Official figures show nearly 800 women sentenced to death around the world, including a hundred between 2008 and 2018, the associations claimed.

Among the 26 signatories are the Tunisian League for Human Rights, the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, the Organization Against Torture in Tunisia, the Tunisian Coalition Against the Death Penalty and the National Observatory for the Defence of the Civil Character of the State.

(source: allafrica.com)

NIGERIA:

LEDAP Seeks to End the Death Penalty in Nigeria

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), on Thursday, called for an abolition of the death penalty as a measure of punishment for capital offences in the Nigerian criminal jurisprudence.

The Project made the call in a news conference held in Lagos, jointly hosted by the Human Rights Law Centre (HURILAWS).

Speaking at the Conference, Senior Programme Manager for LEDAP, Mrs. Pamela Okoroigwe, said that the Prohect is concerned with the role of the media in helping to drive home the quest for abolition of the death penalty.

According to her, the world statistics on death penalty shows that as at today, 110 countries of the world have since abolished the death penalty, with the most recent being Sierra Leone.

“Research has revealed that death row inmates are exclusively poor and without legal representation, thus, rendering the use of death penalty unfair”, she said.

According to her, one of the major reasons the death penalty should be stopped, includes the fact that once done, it cannot be undone, regardless of whether such person is eventually discovered to be innocent.”It is now important for society to move away from retributive justice, and look towards restorative justice; as a rehabilitated criminal today, can make meaningful contributions to society tomorrow”, she said.

She said that if the death penalty can be abolished, it will greatly serve to improve the administration of criminal justice in the country.

In his remarks, Programme Manager of HURILAWS, Mr. Collins Okeke, said that the argument for the death penalty which has been in existence for over 40 years, stems from the belief that such penalty will reduce the tide of crime.

According to him, this unfortunately, has not.

“Another perception is the popular notion of “tit for tat”, but, sadly, this is also not always the case, as it is clear that tit is not always for tat, especially in our contemporary society.

“So, a basic question should be, how do we deal with the victims of crime? Is there a way to make the person compensate the family? I think these are areas we must look into.”We must take a holistic picture of these issues surrounding the death penalty, for it is not just a case of justice for the victim, but also justice to society as well”, he said.

Okeke, therefore, urged a reshaping of the security architecture of the country, as a first step to warding off crime in society, so as to mitigate circumstances of the death penalty.

“I think we have an opportunity to address this situation, and I urge us all, and also call on well meaning Nigerians as well as civil society groups, to join in addressing this situation”, he said.

Also speaking at the event, an analyst, Mr. Jude Igbanoi, urged on the need to explore a more restorative form of justice, aimed at bringing out the good in any convict as opposed to the death penalty.

Mr Igbanoi called for the adoption of an unofficial moratorium, which will first serve as a test avenue, before the abolition of the death penalty.

“My plea to civil society, is to go back and have an unofficial moratorium in place, before we get to the official; when tested successfully, the abolition can then be made complete”, he said.

In his remarks, a constitutional Lawyer, Mr. Nuel Brown, urged that the principle of “audi alteram partem” (hearing both sides), should continually and effectively form the basis for justice delivery in Nigeria.

(source: thisdaylive.com)

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LEDAP, HURILAWS call for abolition of death penalty

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) in collaboration with the Human Right Law Service (HURILAWS) have called for the abolition of death penalty, particularly, against women in Nigeria.

LEDAP Senior Programmes Manager, Mrs. Pamela Okoroigwe and HURILAWS Senior Programmes Manager, Mr. Collins Okeke, who made this call at a news conference, said one of the reasons death penalty should be stopped is that once it’s done, it cannot be undone, regardless whether the person is discovered to be innocent.

The event with the theme: ‘Women and the Death Penalty; an Invisible Reality’ held to commemorate the 19th World Day Against Death Penalty and was organised with the support of the World Coalition Against Death Penalty.

According to the organisations, gender based discrimination often coupled with other factors such as age, sexual orientation, disability, religion, and culture expose women to intersecting forms of structural inequalities and such prejudices can weigh heavily on sentencing.

This discrimination, they said, can also lead to inadequate consideration of critical mitigating factors during arrest and trial, including the specific vulnerabilities of women and likely patterns of abuse and gender-based violence that could have been triggers.

“While working towards the complete abolition of death penalty worldwide for all crimes and for all genders, it is crucial to caution against the discrimination women in Nigeria face and the impact of such discrimination on women in conflict with the law within our criminal justice system,” they said.

Okoroigwe said their research revealed that death row inmates are exclusively the poor and without legal representation, thereby making the use of death penalty an injustice to the poor.

She noted that the global statistics on death penalty shows that 110 countries in the world have abolished it.

“If death penalty can be abolished, it will greatly serve to improve the administration of criminal justice in the country.

“It is therefore important for society to move away from retributive justice and look towards restorative justice as a rehabilitated criminal today can make meaningful contribution to the society,” Okoroigwe said.

Mr. Okeke called for the strengthening of security in the country as part of the measures towards reducing crime.

He further called on Nigerians and civil society groups to join in addressing the situation of death penalty.

A lawyer and public affair analyst, Mr. Jude Igbanoi in his contribution sought for the adoption of an official moratorium to serve as litmus test before abolishing death penalty.

(source: guardian.ng)

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Court sentences man to death by hanging for killing 2 women in Kogi

A High Court in Lokoja on Wednesday sentenced a middle-aged man, Danladi Ichado to death by hanging for stabbing two women to death.

Delivering judgment, Justice Nicodemus Awulu, held that the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt that the convict was presumed to have intended to kill the women based on the weapon he used.

The judge held that the evidence of Rekiya Rilwan (PW1), who was an eyewitness at the scene of crime had fixed the defendant and demolished his alibi.

Awulu therefore, convicted the defendant and sentenced him to death by hanging.

Earlier in the case, the prosecution led by Inedu Opaluwa, Senior Legal Officer with the state Ministry of Justice had told the court that Danladi Ichado of Odogomu, Ankpa Local Government Area of the state committed the alleged offence on June 6, 2020.

Charged with Culpable Homicide Contrary to Section 221(a) of the Penal Code, Ichado was said to have on 6th of June 2020 at Oko-Ojuwo, Ogaji in Ankpa, caused the death of the women by stabbing them with a short cutlass on the head and in the chest.

Opaluwa called 6 witnesses and tendered 4 exhibits while the defendant called 1 witness and gave evidence in his defence.

The prosecution alleged that the convict attacked Rabiyetu Yusufu and Jemila Yakubu with lethal weapon and therefore, urged the court to hold that he intended to kill the women based on the weapon he used.

He argued that with the weapon, Ichado inflicted injuries on their heads and chest penetrating deep and destroying vital organs, leading to their death. According to him, the 3 women – Rabiyetu Yusufu, Jemila Yakubu and Rekiya Rilwan were going to farm on the fateful day when the defendant suddenly appeared from the bush wearing a face mask and pounced on them.

He said that the defendant initially escaped but was later caught and arraigned.

Ichado in his defence tried to establish an alibi that he was at home harvesting palm fruits on the day of the incident and therefore couldn’t have possibly been the one that attacked the women.

(source: vanguardngr.com)

SINGAPORE:

Man fails in appeal against death sentence for transporting 1kg of cannabis into Singapore

A man who imported 1kg of cannabis from Malaysia into Singapore three years ago is set to hang after his appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Apex Court on Tuesday (Oct 12).

Singaporean Omar Yacob Bamadhaj, 41, was sentenced to death in February this year after being convicted of one count of importing into Singapore three bundles containing at least 1kg of cannabis in 2018.

He was nabbed during a routine check at Woodlands Checkpoint past midnight on Jul 12, 2018. His father, who did not know about the drugs, was at the wheel.

When asked about the three bundles wrapped in aluminium foil, cling wrap and newspaper in the boot of the car, Omar said they contained "plants for herbs".

The prosecution's case is that Omar pre-ordered the Class A drugs on Jul 10, 2018 and collected them a day later near a mosque in Malaysia.

Omar's defence at trial was that he did not know the nature of the bundles at the time. He claimed his acquaintances, known as Din and Latif, had placed the bundles in his bag without his knowledge.

Omar and his father left Singapore on Jul 11, 2018 to buy groceries and to perform their evening prayers at a mosque. After that, Omar dropped his father off at his brother's school for an event, while he himself went to run errands.

While at a car wash, he met two of his acquaintances, Din and Latif. Latif asked Omar to bring three bundles wrapped in newspapers into Singapore, and Omar initially said he did not want to take the risk.

In a statement Omar gave to the police on the day of his arrest, he said the deal was for S$500 per bundle. He said he knew the "green" was marijuana, and contemplated for 20 minutes before accepting the deal as he was "desperate for money".

However, in later statements, he denied knowledge of what the bundles were, claiming that Din or Latif had placed the bundles in his car without his knowledge.

On Tuesday, Omar's lawyer Hassan Esa Almenoar said there was reasonable doubt as to whether Omar imported the drugs deliberately or not, and said it was "difficult to conclude that he planned all this".

ALLEGED COERCION BY CNB OFFICERS

Omar had argued that the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers had "coerced" him into giving admissions. He claimed that an officer threw a pen at him, and threatened him and said: "If you refuse to admit to this, I will throw both you and your father to be hanged".

However, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said it was "difficult" to see how Omar's two earliest statements were "involuntary". He pointed out that notwithstanding the allegation that the 1st officer had threatened Omar, the second statement was taken by a different officer, with Omar divulging more details of how and why he imported the drugs.

Omar only pulled back from his admissions five days after giving those statements, said the Chief Justice, who heard the case along with Justices Andrew Phang and Chao Hick Tin.

Omar's new version of events was that his mind "went blank" when his car was stopped at Woodlands Checkpoint and the three bundles were uncovered.

In a subsequent statement, the officer questioned Omar as to the disparities in his statements. When asked why there were differences in his accounts, Omar replied: "I said that because I was not at the right state of mind. I was feeling high from the stick I had smoked with Din. High to me is like being semi-conscious."

The Chief Justice pointed out that if Omar had really been coerced by the officer, this was when he should have said so.

After deliberating the case, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, saying they were satisfied that the trial judge had examined the case carefully.

(source: channelnewsasia.com)

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S’pore rights defender M Ravi to star as reluctant lawyer hero, aka himself

Crusading Singaporean human rights lawyer Ravi Madasamy, aka M Ravi, is producing a movie – about himself.

The lawyer, a vocal opponent of Singapore’s death penalty, announced Saturday that he was working with Indian filmmaker Prem Li on Aadhi Yogi, a project he’d turned down in the past and only recently, like a reluctant hero, agreed to doing.

The movie, produced by an Indian production company, will be inspired by the lawyer’s memoirs, Kampong Boy and Hung At Dawn.

“The most important motive of Mr. Ravi is all humans are the same and all god is one,” writer and director Prem said in a recorded Tamil announcement, adding that the 51-year-old lawyer initially rejected the idea due to his “hectic schedule.”

“But I contacted him many times in the past two years and forced him to understand that it was important to make this movie and make the people understand his motive and by doing so we could gain a larger support and supporters to fight together towards his motive,” he said. The film is expected to be out Oct. 10, next year, which is also World Day Against Death Penalty.

Kampong Boy documents the lawyer’s activism to abolish capital punishment, while Hung At Dawn tells a story of Ravi’s attempt to save a young man from the gallows.

Ravi said that he was won over by the script for the biopic in which he will star as himself.

“Not difficult as I don’t have to act but be myself in both the English movie and the Tamil version,” he said, adding that the movie is expected to begin production soon in at least five countries.

The filmmaker claims industry experience, but nothing much could be found online except for a cringe-worthy romantic movie about an Indian man falling for an Australian woman.

Ravi is best known for his legal attempts at rescuing those convicted of drug trafficking from capital punishment, although his applications were rarely successful. A Malaysian named Gobi Avedian did escape the death penalty last year after the lawyer helped him reopen the case, resulting in his sentencing being replaced with jail time and caning.

Ravi, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006 and suffered multiple meltdowns, returned to law practice in 2019 after he was ordered 18 months of treatment for offenses including assaulting an ex-colleague.

(source: coconuts.co)

INDONESIA:

Rights groups call on govt to abolish death penalty

Rights groups have called on the government to remove the death penalty from the country’s legal system, given the lack of evidence that it would deter other people from committing crimes and the high risk of wrongful conviction.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesian judges continue to mete out capital punishments, mostly to drug convicts, with trials conducted via teleconference. Such practices, activists say, potentially put the due process of law at risk for the defendants.

As many as 129 convicts were sentenced to capital punishment between March 2020 and September 2021, according to data compiled by human rights watchdog Imparsial.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

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Effectiveness of death penalty not yet proven: Komnas HAM

Studies have shown that the effectiveness of the death penalty in deterring drug offenders and terrorists has not yet been proven, chief of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) Ahmad Taufan Damanik has said.

In a press conference that was broadcast live on the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) YouTube channel on Monday, Taufan noted that groups that support the implementation of the death penalty have argued that it will serve as a deterrent and thus, it will be effective in eradicating certain crimes.

However, terrorists seek death since it is something that they choose when they embark on a mission mandated by the masterminds behind their actions, he opined.

"Terrorists are, in fact, grateful for the death penalty. Because of this, giving the death penalty to terrorists is not effective," he said.

To this end, Komnas HAM will effectively push for the abolishment of the death penalty from Indonesia's legal system, starting by limiting the types of crimes that attract the death penalty, he informed.

"For Komnas HAM, the death penalty is unacceptable and it should be abolished," Damanik asserted.

He highlighted that in efforts to abolish the death penalty, the commission has encountered challenges from various groups, such as social and political groups, who still consider the penalty important.

Indonesia should review the existing national law and practices so that they ensure careful legal procedure as well as protection to suspects facing the death penalty, in accordance with the UN's resolution, he emphasized.

"Furthermore, Indonesia should apply a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty," he said.

The press conference, entitled 'Death Penalty the Highest Gender-Based Violence toward Women: Abolish for Women's Justice and Recovery', was held to commemorate the World Day Against the Death Penalty, which is observed every October 10.

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Death penalty highest form of violence against women: Komnas Perempuan

The death penalty is the highest form of gender-based torture, discrimination, and violence against women, Chief of the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) Andy Yentriyani has said.

At a press conference that was broadcast live on Komnas Perempuan's YouTube channel on Monday, she contended that the death penalty had a special implication for women and had a certain impact on their life and family.

Based on Komnas Perempuan's study and observation of cases of women facing the death penalty, such a sentence often relates to a host of other issues such as the feminization of poverty, human trafficking, and a legal system that does not side with the victim, Yentriyani noted.

In relation to the legal system, she cited the example of Mary Jane.

Mary Jane was a Philippines national who was sentenced to death after she was caught carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin at Adisutjipto International Airport, Yogyakarta, in April 2010, she informed.

Mary Jane eventually turned out to be a victim who was framed by a narcotics syndicate and to this day, it is uncertain whether or not she will be granted remission or be executed, she said.

"Mary Jane has (been waiting) for 11 years," Yentriyani underlined.

This waiting time does not just affect the women facing the death penalty, but their entire family, she added.

In addition to causing mental health problems, the situation could also trigger other bigger social issues, she said.

Therefore, Komnas Perempuan is advocating and campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty, Yentriyani said.

In this effort, Komnas Perempuan is collaborating with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), Ombudsman, and Witness and Victim Protection Institution, she added.

Yentriyani said she hopes that through this campaign, Komnas Perempuan can urge the government to revise several policies that serve as the foundation for the death penalty.

Komnas Perempuan held the press conference entitled 'Death Penalty the Highest Gender-Based Violence toward Women: Abolish it for Women's Justice and Recovery!' to raise awareness among the people regarding the impact of the death penalty on women, she added.

(source for both: antaranews.com)

TONGA:

Judge considers death penalty in Poli Kefu murder, before imposing life sentence

A death penalty was seriously considered by Tonga's Lord Chief Justice, before he gave a life sentence yesterday, to the man who admitted the murder of prominent human rights activist Polikalepo “Poli” Kefu (41) in April this year.

Lord Chief Justice Whitten QC, convicted ‘Inoke Silongo F. Tonga (27), a meth addict, of the murder at a beach in Tatakamotonga.

The defendant, who was living at Halaleva and was originally from Vava'u, had pleaded guilty to the murder charge on September 2. He appeared for sentencing in the Nuku'alofa Supreme Court on Monday, October 11.

The injuries inflicted on the victim were among the worst encountered by the court.

The offending was “a heinous crime of extreme brutality and depravity,” said the Chief Justice, who noted that the manner of the killing by prolonged and repeated strangling and frenzied bashing with a large rock, and the callous attempt by the defendant to dispose of the body into the ocean before making off with the victim's car, “place this crime towards the most serious end of the spectrum for offences of its kind, that is, the ‘rarest of the rare’.”

The murderer had taken alcohol and a heavy dose of meth on the night of the murder. "Regrettably, the scourge of methamphetamines has been and continues to be felt in Tonga... Directly or indirectly, methamphetamines have robbed 1 innocent of his life and now threaten to end another," the Chief Justice concluded.

In Tonga there are only two alternative sentences for murder - death or life imprisonment.

“Neither section 91, nor any other provision of the Criminal Offences Act, provides any guidance on how the Court is to choose between death or life imprisonment,” the Chief Justice said.

He set out his reasons for the choosing life imprisonment, in a 21-page Sentencing Remarks, and compared the case to the worst murders in Tongan legal history.

Highly regarded

In opening his remarks, the Chief Justice said that the victim, Poli, who resided in Lapaha, was a son, a brother and a father. He was best known as a prominent human rights activist and advocate for the LGBTQI community in Tonga and across the Pacific. He served as president of the Tonga Leiti's Association, chairman of the Pacific Protection Gender Inclusion Network and as Communications Officer for the Tonga Red Cross Society.

"He was highly regarded both here and overseas for his selfless and tireless work for the rights of those with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Poli dedicated his life to the safety of others."

The defendant wanted to steal his wallet and take his car. He had never met Poli until that night.

Night out

The Court heard on the evening of April 30, Poli met up with work colleagues for drinks at the Reload Bar in Nuku'alofa CBD and at approximately 11:00pm, he left the bar and went to his vehicle.

A person named Fe'ofa'aki Kali saw Poli and asked him for a ride to Tatakamotonga. The defendant also got into the vehicle. When they reached “Kapo’s residence” in Tatakamotonga, Fe'ofa'aki and the defendant got out of the vehicle. Fe'ofa'aki joined the kava drinkers there, while the defendant got back into the vehicle with Poli.

Later, at around 1:00am, the defendant appeared at the residence of 'Ofeina and Petelo Save in Tatakamotonga.

He told them that he had been drinking with some girls at the beach, that they had lost their car keys and that they needed something with which to start their car. The defendant then left with a small black handled kitchen knife.

At approximately 2:00am, the defendant returned to the Save residence, this time, in Poli's vehicle. He spent the rest of the night there and, in the morning, went to his sister's house in Halaleva.

That morning, residents of Tatakamotonga found Poli's body at Fuifa beach [aka Fuipa Beach] and the Police were called. Subsequent medical examinations found that Poli had died within the preceding 24-hours and that he had suffered a range of injuries, including multiple serious facial fractures and an incised wound on his forehead down to the nasal area. The right side of his face and skull vault was caved in.

The cause of death was determined as severe head injury secondary to repeated blunt force trauma.

Confessed to killing

The Chief Justice said that Police from Mu'a conducted a search for the defendant. They went to his sister's residence at Halaleva where they found Poli's vehicle.

In the evening, one named Ruben Suli returned to his home in 'Utulau and found the defendant there. They went for a drive, during which, the defendant confessed to Ruben that he had killed Poli. Ruben then drove the defendant to the Nuku'alofa Police Station where the defendant admitted to killing Poli.

On May 6 during further questioning, the defendant gave police an account of how he went with Poli to buy a bottle of spirits, however Poli drove to the beach were he allegedly made sexual advances. The defendant became angry and in a prolonged attack he twice attempted to strangle Poli, for about 12 minutes, before slamming him on the road, then strangled him for about 5 more minutes, before bashing him with a rock more than 30 times. The defendant then rested for a couple of minutes before dragging Poli's body to the water line, hoping it would be washed out to sea. He admitted that he intended to beat Poli to death.

A mental health assessment found that the defendant knew what he was doing and that it was wrong. He was fit to stand trial. Dr Puloka had contacted Ruben Suli who confirmed that the defendant told him he “had other reasons” for killing Poli, including his “wish to own (steal)” Poli's car and wallet.

The defendant came from a broken family.

In his assessment, Dr Puloka reported that the defendant started abusing alcohol, smoking cannabis and sniffing benzene and glue from the age of 13, and suffered from mental and behavioural disorders due to his addiction to and chronic use of methamphetamines since 2017. He took his last “heavy dose” of meth between 9:00 to 10:00pm on the night of the murder.

The defendant also told the probation officer that on the night “he had been drinking and smoking methamphetamines at the bar”.

Death or life imprisonment

The Chief Justice said that in this case, the Crown left the choice of penalty to the discretion of the court.

The Crown observed that the defendant intended to cause the deceased's death, and the seriousness of the offending was marked by the prolonged and repeated nature of the attacks and extensive injuries inflicted on the victim. The Crown observed that the offending had, and continued to have “dire effects” on the deceased's family, including his two customarily adopted sons, his younger sister and his older disabled brother.

Defence counsel urged the Court to exercise its discretion by sparing the defendant's life. Mitigating factors considered were that the defendant's early guilty plea was an indication of remorse. The defendant had no previous convictions. He had demonstrated remorse and his family had provided an apology with customary reparations to Poli's family, who had accepted the apology and expressed their forgiveness.

Last executions

The Chief Justice considered other murder cases in Tonga and the penalties.

“Sections 44 (treason) and 91 (murder) of the Criminal Offences Act enacted almost a century ago, are laws which permit the State to take the life of a subject.”

Section 33(2) of the Criminal Offences Act provides that no sentence of death shall be carried out until the King with the consent of the Privy Council has assented to it. Subsection (3) enables the King with the consent of the Privy Council to commute a sentence of death to imprisonment for life.

Chief Justice Whitten QC noted that: “debates about the propriety of the death penalty in a modern, civilised society (and perhaps even more so, in one firmly rooted in Christian values) are the province of Parliament.”

The last executions in Tonga took place in 1982 when a jury found three men guilty of murder. They were sentenced to death and, after appeals for clemency were in vain, were taken to the place of execution and hanged by the neck until they were dead.

He said that prior to and since then, 140 countries around the world have abolished the death penalty by law or in practice. “Tonga is generally regarded internationally as one of the latter. Of the Pacific Island countries, only Tonga and Papua New Guinea retain the death penalty.”

“Until 2005, the published judgments of this Court and the Court of Appeal did not include any, which considered the question in any detail.”

He referred to the guidance of Webster CJ in the case of Vola, (2005) which considered the death penalty and principles as a form of punishment.

The Chief Justice said, “in applying those principles to the instant case, I consider that the aggravating features of the offending here are capable of characterising it as a heinous crime of extreme brutality and depravity.”

He said, in arriving at that characterisation, he considered and compared the instant with the acts perpetrated in each of the cases referred to by the Crown.

“The defendant's exceptional and prolonged brutality, including the extraordinary number of blows with the rock, during which, he must have seen the damage he was inflicting but continued anyway, attracts the same epithets stated by Cato J in Tu'itufu, namely an extremely cowardly and savage attack on an unfortunate man, involving almost indescribable and inhuman acts. It will be recalled that in Tu'itufu, the only reason Cato J did not impose the death penalty was because the defendant was only 17 years of age. That saving feature does not apply here,” he said.

Unbridled violence

In considering the mitigating factors, the Chief Justice said, he had intentionally left out any reference to the defendant's claim of provocation by Poli through alleged sexual advances.

“If they occurred, they were obviously not considered by the defendant or his counsel to be sufficient to mount a partial defence. However, I have reservations about whether they did occur, or in the manner suggested by the defendant,” he said. The defendant's accounts of what occurred in that regard were materially inconsistent.

“If Poli did make advances, the defendant was clearly capable of deterring him without causing injury or avoiding him by simply walking away,” he said.

“The defendant's explanation that it was Poli's advances that caused him to become angry and react in the monstrous way that he did are almost impossible to accept. The level of unbridled violence that followed could not reasonably be explained by any need to prevent Poli from making advances. It, in fact, suggests a different motive, which brings me to the final reason,” he said.

A copy of Ruben's statement confirmed, as Dr Puloka recounted, that the defendant told Ruben that he also killed Poli in order to steal Poli's car and wallet.

Methamphetamines

In addition, Dr Puloka identified the defendant as a long-term addict who as a result, had developed mental and behavioural disorders.

“As alluded to by Dr Puloka, and as explained in publicly available medical literature, people who use methamphetamines long term may exhibit symptoms including significant anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances and violent behaviour,” he said.

"Regrettably, the scourge of methamphetamines has been and continues to be felt in Tonga, with a sharp rise in cases involving the drug coming before the courts over the last 2 to 3-years."

He said, this Court, on multiple occasions had described methamphetamines and other Class A drugs as not just drugs of dependence, but drugs “of destruction, causing untold damage to countless individuals, their families and their communities”.

“Lamentably, the present case is now an apex illustration of the truth of those repeated cautions. Directly or indirectly, methamphetamines have robbed one innocent of his life and now threaten to end another."

The Chief Justice Whitten then, after carefully weighing all factors was satisfied that:

a.“the instant offending, albeit involving extreme brutality, falls just short of the rarest of the rare case of its kind in Tonga b.“of the mitigating factors considered, the influence of long term methamphetamine use and the defendant's propensity for rehabilitation, take his case out of those for which death penalty should be reserved and the objects of punishment as well as denunciation, community protection and deterrence can be achieved by the alternative penalty.”

In addition, he said there was no requirement and arguably no statutory power for the Court to make any order or recommendation in relation to the defendant's eligibility for release, at any time during his sentence.

He then sentenced the defendant to imprisonment for life for murder.

Crown counsel was Mr T ‘Aho. The defendant was represented by Ms L. Tonga.

(source: matangitonga.to)

OCTOBER 11, 2021:

TEXAS:

Texas executions face delays over religious rights claims

Executions in the nation's busiest capital punishment state face delays amid legal questions over Texas' refusal to allow spiritual advisers to touch inmates and pray aloud as condemned individuals are being put to death.

It's unclear when Texas may carry out another execution after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear religious freedom claims from death row inmate John Henry Ramirez. The court blocked his execution last month, about 3 hours after it could have been carried out. Several other inmates have since made similar claims, and courts have put some of their executions on hold.

"It would be unusual for somebody who has the same issue to not get a stay while the Supreme Court is deciding that issue. It would be very unusual," said Michael Benza, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

A ruling from the Supreme Court could be months away. It's set to hear oral arguments on Nov. 1.

Ramirez says the state is violating his religious freedom by not letting his spiritual adviser lay hands on him and pray out loud as he is executed. Texas prison officials say that direct contact poses a security risk and that prayers said aloud could be disruptive.

The most recent delay was for Stephen Barbee. He was set to be executed Tuesday, but U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt in Houston ruled Thursday that Barbee has initially shown Texas' "limitations in the execution chamber substantially burden the exercise of his religion."

"I am very grateful for the stay of execution in Mr. Barbee's case as it will allow the court time to evaluate these important religious rights issues," Richard Ellis, Barbee's attorney, said in an email Friday.

Courts already had granted delays for 2 other inmates — Ruben Gutierrez, scheduled for Oct. 27, and Fabian Hernandez, set for Nov. 3 — at the request of prosecutors. Kosoul Chanthakoummane, set to die Nov. 10, and Ramiro Gonzales, scheduled for execution on Nov. 17, also are raising similar religious freedom claims, which could delay their lethal injections.

Executions in Texas have been sporadic in the last 2 years, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with just 3 lethal injections carried out last year and 3 so far this year. In comparison, Texas carried out 13 executions in 2018 and nine in 2019.

Texas and Missouri have been the only states to execute inmates during the pandemic, with 2 in Missouri. The federal government under the Trump administration did execute 13 inmates in this same period. Oklahoma and Alabama both have executions set for later this year.

The Supreme Court has dealt with the presence of spiritual advisers in the death chamber in recent years but has not made a definitive ruling. The inmates are citing the Constitution's First Amendment as well as a 2000 federal law that protects a prisoner's religious rights.

The high court's review comes after the Texas prison system in April reversed a 2-year ban on spiritual advisers in the death chamber but limited what they can do. Texas instituted the ban after the Supreme Court in 2019 halted the execution of Patrick Murphy, who had argued his religious freedom was being violated because his Buddhist spiritual adviser wasn't allowed to accompany him. Murphy remains on death row.

The ruling in Murphy's case came after the court was criticized for declining to halt the execution of Alabama inmate Domineque Ray over his request to have his Islamic spiritual adviser in the death chamber.

In a statement filed in federal court Monday in Barbee's case, Bobby Lumpkin, director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Correctional Institutions Division, suggested a spiritual adviser could attempt to release an inmate or pull the intravenous lines that administer the lethal injection. Lumpkin also said audible prayers could prevent prison officials from hearing whether something has gone wrong.

"Because death row houses many of (the prison system's) most violent, unpredictable and dangerous inmates, who have nothing to lose by attempting to escape or taking and assaulting a hostage, the rule against physical touch increases the security of the institution and protects visitors and staff," Lumpkin said.

Last month, Alabama agreed as part of a lawsuit settlement to let death row inmate Willie Smith's pastor hold his hand and pray with him during his Oct. 21 execution.

J. Patrick Hornbeck II, a theology professor at Fordham University in New York, said the Supreme Court will look at balancing the state's legitimate interest in security with prisoners' ability to practice their religion.

"It's going to be a real test of the consistency that the justices bring to this sort of question to see how they deal with these sorts of religious freedom claims when they're raised by prisoners who have been condemned to death for heinous crimes but who are looking for solace in the last moments of their life," Hornbeck said.

Michael Mushlin, a law professor at Pace University in New York, said it's likely the Supreme Court will issue a ruling on the two specific issues: whether spiritual advisers can pray out loud and whether they can touch an inmate. But it's unclear if the court will issue a broader ruling that lays out everything a spiritual adviser can do in an execution chamber, he said.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Man Accused of 4 Deaths Requests to be Housed Closer to Riverside Superior Court During Trial

Jose Larin-Garcia, 21, faces death penalty for the alleged murder of 4 victims in Palm Springs, and at his trial here in Riverside County Superior Court Friday, his defense counsel asked the court if Larin-Garcia could be housed in Indio so he does not have to wake up at 2 a.m. to go to court.

In February of 2019, Palm Springs police found 3 of the victims shot in the head inside a crashed car. After a few hours, a man was also found dead with gunshot wounds about a mile from Larin-Garcia’s location.

2 days after the fatal murders Larin-Garcia was arrested and charged with death penalty.

Defense Counsel John Patrick Dolan argued that his client is being unfairly treated because Larin-Garcia has to travel so far to get to court.

“There’s a danger he might fall asleep (in the trial),” the attorney said, because Larin-Garcia wakes up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. to be in court. Defense Counsel Dolan further said that being tired in court does not look good in front of the jury.

But Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao said that Larin-Garcia can take a break if he is exhausted.

The decision of his housing depends on his behavior both in court and in jail. But the DDA said Larin-Garcia has had three incidents with law enforcement, including alleged attacks on law enforcement officer, and escape attempts.

Larin-Garcia also attempted to flee the state after the quadruple homicide, she said.

DDA Paixao also pointed out 2 safety concerns, including having Larin-Garcia unshackled. She stated that it is not only important keep the attorneys safe, but the jurors and civilians as well. She requested more deputies in the courtroom.

The judge responded that Larin-Garcia has had exemplary behavior in the courtroom, and there has been no issues with him being unshackled.

The judge approved future hearings for Larin-Garcia to have a leg bracelet that prevents him from having full leg mobility, and the courtroom will have two deputies.

The 2nd concern from DDA Paixao is the mother of Larin-Garcia in the courtroom. She claims she observed a note being passed from the mother to defense counsel and then to Larin-Garcia.

“It is a direct violation of the code,” said DDA Paixao.

The judge stated that he was aware of the note, which said, reportedly, “I love you.” The judge said, “as long as the counsel sees it, and it says I love you from his mom, I really don’t think that’s an issue at all…We are all humans here; it is not her fault that her son is here in quadruple homicide.”

Moreover, Defense Counsel Dolan pointed out that “this is a death penalty, he [Larin-Garcia] is fighting for his life so I think is very important that we can find a resolution to this.”

The next hearing will take place Tuesday Oct. 12.

(source: The Davis Vanguard)

USA:

10 shocking statistics about the US death penalty that you won’t believe are still true in 2021----Here are some of the most striking details about capital punishment in America

Why the death penalty isn't working for America

In the years between their convictions and their executions, death row inmates don’t usually make the headlines.

Locked away in high-security prisons, often situated in out-of-the-way rural areas, these people are barely allowed to see daylight and their own families, let alone communicate with the public. What’s more, they’re a small fraction of the US’s world-leading prison population of more than 2 million people.

Digging into the statistics of the death penalty, however, reveals a strange, often misunderstood aspect of the criminal legal system. Here are some of the most striking details about capital punishment in America.

There are more than 2,500 people on death row right now

There are at least 2,504 people on death row across America in the federal and state prison systems, according to the most recent NAACP Legal Defense Fund analysis of prison data this spring.

The vast majority of present-day executions take place in Republican-led states in the US South, so it’s no surprise that states like Florida, Texas, and Alabama, have some of the most death row inmates in the country, at 343, 205, 170, respectively. More shocking to some, perhaps, is that California, known for its solidly Democratic politics, has nearly as many on its death row as those three Southern states combined. The state implemented a moratorium on the death penalty in 2019, but still has 704 people on its death row.

But most people on death row aren’t executed

Between 1973 and June 2019, more than 8000 were sentenced to death, but just 1500 of them were killed, one study found. Those who remain on death row but are still alive live in a state of limbo, often battling their cases for decades, living in extreme isolation awaiting their deaths.

Nearly one in nine people on death row are later found innocent

Among those sent to death row in the last five decades, nearly one in nine are later found to be innocent, research indicates. And those are just the cases where errors in their case—shoddy police work, coerced confessions, prosecutorial misconduct—were so clear cut they could survive the high bar of the appeals process and be conclusively proven innocent.

As of this February, 1,532 people have been executed since the 1972 Furman Supreme Court decision, which found that the death penalty was unconstitutional, cruel and unusual punishment as it was currently being implemented. At least 185 of those people have been exonerated. The real figure is likely far higher.

The Independent wrote this profile of one such exoneree, Herman Lindsey, who spent more than a year on Florida’s death row for a murder he did not commit—a punishment that still haunts him and affects his life to this day, more than 10 years after he was exonerated.

There are three times the percentage of Black people on death row than white people

The death penalty touches nearly every aspect of the criminal legal system, beginning with policing, making its way through the courts, and ending up in prison—all institutions shown to discriminate against people of colour in myriad ways.

As such, it’s perhaps no surprise then that Black people are vastly over-represented on death row. The US Black population is about 13 % in America, according to census data - death row’s Black population, meanwhile, was 41.29 % Black people, as of this spring.

Digging into the specifics reveals even more shocking conclusions. Those who kill white people are 17 times more likely to get the death penalty than those who kill Black people, according to a landmark 2020 study.

The death penalty has been this way its entire history, from its origins handing down far more stringent punishments to enslaved Black people during colonial times, to its coexistence for years alongside extra-judicial lynchings in the US South and beyond. Eventually, officials began explicitly arguing for the death penalty as a way to replace lynching.

Those underlying racist impulses persist to this day in death penalty cases. In the case of current death row inmate Julius Jones, who The Independent profiled here, it was revealed that a juror told a counterpart the trial was a “waste of time” and that police should “just take the n****r out and shoot him behind the jail,” but the conviction persisted anyway.

It costs more to kill an inmate than to imprison them for life

Somewhat counter-intuitively, it often costs states multiple times more money to send people to death row, a place everyone theoretically leaves, than to incarcerate them indefinitely. A 2017 found that the average death row inmate costs prison systems more than $1 million more than their peers in the general population. Before California paused executions in 2019, the state spent more than $180 million extra dollars each year on the death penalty, according to a 2011 study. The costs pile up because death penalty cases are long, requiring years worth of costly legal battles, as well as the costs of maintaining death row inmates for decades inside prisons.

Death penalty cases last 22 years on average

Not only do death row inmates spend a seeming eternity in prison before their executions—cases are slowing down even further as time goes on, as states struggle to find suppliers of controversial lethal injection drugs and advocates put more pressure on the justice system to avert executions.

The mean time between conviction and execution has nearly quadrupled since the mid-1980s, for an average of 22 years in 2019, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The US is one of only 23 UN member states with capital punishment

“The United Nations says that globally the world is moving away from the use of capital punishment, with 170 of its 193 member countries having already abolished or ceased the use of executions,” as our editors wrote in a recent editorial, announcing The Independent’s formal stance against capital punishment, as part of a campaign with the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice. “The US is increasingly an outlier, alongside nations such as China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.”

Capital punishment in America is older than America itself

Any attempts to overturn capital punishment are contending with a deep-seated American practice. Capital punishment for crime is older than the United States itself, with the first recorded execution in North America taking place in 1608 in colonial Virginia.

Donald Trump ordered 13 people executed during the pandemic, a 120-year record

Despite a growing movement against capital punishment, that doesn’t mean the death penalty is set to disappear any time soon. After a 17-year pause, Donald Trump restarted federal executions and killed 13 in the final months of his term. It was the most federal inmates put to death under one president in the last 120 years. The killing spree continued even after Mr Trump lost the election in November to Joe Biden, who campaigned against capital punishment.

Americans are still split on the death penalty, but growing more open to changes

Public support for the death penalty been declining for decades since its peak in the ‘90s. Depending on which poll you use, either a 60 % majority, or a 39 per cent minority, support alternatives to capital punishment over the death penalty for convicted murders. That’s all to say perhaps what we’ve always known: capital punishment is deeply controversial. What’s new is that more and more people are starting to question it.

(source: The Independent)

JAPAN:

Yakuza death sentence won't stop organized crime

Satoru Nomura, the 74-year-old head of Japan's infamous Kudo-kai crime syndicate, made news in August when he became the first active yakuza boss to receive a death sentence.

Handed down by a district court in Fukuoka, the sentence was punishment for his involvement in a murder and three other violent assaults.

Despite the lack of direct evidence linking him to the murders, the court concluded that Nomura, as the head of an organization known for its brutality, had supervisory responsibility in the killing committed by his underlings as well as the 3 other incidents.

Most media analysts and yakuza experts had dismissed any chance that Nomura would be sentenced to hang, believing that there was enough reasonable doubt about who ordered the killing.

They also reasoned that Nomura had not met the criteria required for capital punishment that were set out in the trial of Norio Nagayama, a disadvantaged youth who committed four robbery murders in 1968 as a 19-year old and who was eventually hanged in 1997. These guidelines include factors such as level of viciousness, motive, the number of victims and the degree of remorse.

In Nomura's case, the experts proved to be mistaken. Some observers compared the judge's ruling to a recent civil case applying“employer's responsibility” to top gang leaders as part of the country's push to weaken the influence of crime syndicates.

This legal approach is similar to that of the racketeer-influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) laws in the United States, which permit leaders of crime syndicates to be tried for crimes committed by their underlings.

When Tony Soprano in episode 1 tells his psychiatrist what's bugging him, she briefly wonders: Who's this Rico you're talking about. Photo: Redditt The same principle also applied in 2004 when doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo leader Chizuo Matsumoto drew a death sentence solely on the testimony of his followers. They said he had instructed them to release the toxic gas sarin in the Tokyo subway system in a 1995 attack that would kill 14 people, as well as to commit other murders over the years.

A panel of academics, appearing on national public broadcaster NHK's Close Up Gendai in early October, argued that the August sentence against the gang boss was unjustified and expressed concern that this type of death sentence might be used to execute other criminals leading other organizations.

Perhaps they were referring to communists and other left-wing terrorists in Japan's prisons who have so far escaped being sentenced to death. Fusako Shigenobu, of Japanese Red Army infamy, is one who many believe should have received the death penalty. In 1974, 3 members of the JRA carried out an attack on the French Embassy in the Hague and in 1975 another group carried out the Lod Airport Massacre in Israel, in which 26 people were killed.

The Kudo-kai yakuza gang is based in the city of Kita Kyushu, on Japan's third-largest island, where it built and maintained a fortress-like headquarters protected by high walls, barbed wire and high-tech security cameras. (Authorities tore the structure down in 2019.) Dating to the pre-war days, the gang has been described by the National Police Agency as“an extremely vicious organization.”

The headquarters building of Kudo-kai was demolished by authorities on November 22, 2019. Photo: AFP / Yuji Kato / The Yomiuri Shimbun The gang is distinguished from other yakuza groups by a willingness to attack civilian owners of businesses large and small who refuse to pay mikajime fees – protection money. In one famous case the gang detonated hand grenades in a nightclub run by the leader of an anti-yakuza group who had the temerity to post a“no gangsters allowed” sign.

“Kudo-kai is known for using hand grenades, chemical weapons (rat poison), pistols and machine guns, among other things,” says underworld authority Hiroki Allen,“They are quite dangerous.”

Among other crimes, they are also suspected of attacking a local Toyota factory, bombing the home of the president of Kyushu Electric Power and shooting the president of a rival construction company. Those targeted had refused either to pay protection money or to accept bribes.

One of the gangsters' more notorious undertakings was a series of attacks in the year 2000 when they hurled Molotov cocktails at the Shimonoseki office and residence of Shinzo Abe, later to become prime minister of Japan, after Abe's staff apparently failed to pay the Kudo-kai for“services rendered” during an election.

With a sphere of activity ranging from drug trafficking to unlawful involvement in public works projects to dealing in rocket launchers and rocket-propelled grenades, the Kudo-kai has also waged war against rival Chinese gangs – once going so far as to attack the consulate of the People's Republic of China with shotguns and a dump truck.

As for Nomura himself, he started life as the son of a well-to-do real estate salesman. He began stealing cars and frequenting gambling dens as a juvenile, missing his junior high school graduation ceremony in 1962 thanks to a stint in a local youth detention center.

Over-sensitive about his height and slight build, Nomura carried a wooden sword to compensate for his inability to fight barehanded and joined the Kudo-kai in his 20s.

Thanks to his ability to earn – Nomura brought in the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds from gambling, loan sharking and real estate – he was made gang boss in 2011.

Known for his violent temper, Nomura became enraged in 2012 when a penis enlargement procedure did not produce the desired results. He ordered an underling to stab the supervising nurse. She survived but was severely injured.

End of an era – or not?

One wonders what effect the death sentence will ultimately have on Japan's criminal underworld. Reformed yakuza Satoru Takegaki told the Shukan Shincho magazine recently that the ruling was epoch-making:“It's more likely some yakuza will wash their feet and think the gang business isn't worth it.”

But will they?

Anti-gang laws have been in place since a 1999 crackdown on organized crime, forbidding gang members to hold bank accounts and operate businesses, among other things. This has reduced official gang membership to about 25,000 from a turn-of-the-century total of over 100,000, with Kudo-kai membership down by two-thirds from a high of 1,200. In 2020, local authorities demolished the gang's headquarters.

Accordingly, police will note, arrests have fallen at the same rate in the same period.

But statistics can be deceiving. Among crimes whose numbers are recorded in the statistics, some 70% deal with common theft, such as bicycle theft, while 20% deal with reckless driving – neither of those exactly in the yakuza oeuvre.

At the same time, traditional sources of underworld income – gambling, prostitution and drugs – remain large and financial crimes are increasing.

Yakuza are active in underground casinos, mobile gambling sites and mahjong parlors, as well as online gambling – which, although it's illegal in Japan, has experienced a dramatic spike in recent years.

To cite one publicly known example, reported by the Asahi Shimbun, monthly online visits by Japanese to the Curacao-based casino site Vera and John increased 119-fold from 648,000 in December 2018 to 77.51 million in January 2020. Although the figure declined to 19.88 million in August 2020, it rose again to 49.38 million last November.

Yakuza have also stepped up their activities in child prostitution and child pornography, with offenses in that category doubling in the second decade of the 21stcentury.

In the lucrative field of drugs, cannabis drug offenses have nearly quadrupled since 2000, according to the most recent White Paper on Crime issued by the police, while narcotic and psychotropic crimes have doubled in that same time frame.

China Triads and Mexico cartels have replaced North Korea as prime suppliers of crystal methamphetamine and fentanyl in Japan and by the dawn of the third decade of the 21st century, according to police, there was more cocaine in Tokyo than ever before.

In November 2019 police discovered an astonishing 400 kilograms of cocaine in a shipping container in Kobe, at the time an all-time record for Japan. It was said to be worth more than $75 million on the street.

In April 2020, customs authorities in Yokohama seized 700 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of about $130 million. The cocaine was hidden in a shipping container on a vessel docked in the harbor, nestled amidst boxes of bananas and other items.

A Finance Ministry official declared that Japan had now become“a major market” in the world of illegal drugs, noting that street prices for stimulants were higher than those overseas.

Police in Tokyo's Roppongi entertainment district adopted a policy of stop-and-frisk for narcotics. A lawyer friend, a man from Vancouver, stopped to watch one early-morning frisking by a group of four policemen and was himself searched because the lead cop thought he was“acting suspiciously.”

Money laundering has also spiked in the wake of the rise of narcotics deals with yakuza gangs moving hundreds of billions of yen through Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Another growing source of revenue can be seen in so-called“specialized fraud” cases – impersonating family members, police officers or bank officials in order to raid the savings accounts of unsuspecting individuals.

Thus, to sum up, while yakuza gangs may not operate as openly as before, they are just as active. They have simply become more discreet.

(source: manafn.com)

PAKISTAN:

HRCP asks govt to reinstate moratorium on death penalty

On the world day against the death penalty, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has strongly urged the state to re-impose an immediate moratorium on the death penalty.

The HRCP also demanded from the government to focus on improving the efficacy of criminal investigations and to introduce broader prison reforms that protect the fundamental rights of inmates.The rights commission stated that the state’s duty was to preserve a life and there was no scientific evidence to show that the death penalty reduced the crime rate, adding, “Importantly, the death penalty in an unsatisfactory judicial system should not be permitted. Not only are the poor and resource less overwhelmingly at risk of being executed when convicted, but also special cases, such as minors and the mentally challenged, remain under threat in pro-death penalty regimes.”

According to the HRCP’s records, the state did not execute any prisoner in 2020 and there was a significant fall in the number of cases in which the death penalty was awarded — from 578 persons in 2019 to 177 in 2020, the statement issued by HRCP read. The HRCP also hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling in February, which stated that the prisoners with serious mental health problems could not be executed for their crimes.The HRCP has urged the state to review the number of crimes punishable by death (currently 33), most of which, it believed, did not meet the criteria of most serious under international law.

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

Death penalty on 2 offences may be abolished----Law ministry in its Criminal Law Reforms has proposed 2 amendments

Pakistan is considering abolishing the capital punishment on 2 offences as Sunday was the 19th World Day against Death Penalty.

The country currently has 33 crimes that can lead to a death penalty.

The law ministry in its Criminal Law Reforms has proposed 2 amendments. The 1st is to the Control of Narcotics Substance Act, 1997, and the 2nd to the Railways Act, 1890.

Presently, in offence 9C of the Control of Narcotics Substance Act, the punishment is death or imprisonment for life or for a term which may extend to 14 years. Besides, it is also liable to a fine, which may be up to Rs1 million if the controlled substance exceeds the limits specified in clause (b).

Now the law ministry has proposed that the word "death" be substituted with "remainder of life".

Similarly, the ministry has suggested an amendment to Section 127 of the Railways Act.

The existing section says that maliciously hurting or attempting to hurt persons traveling by train or damaging property belonging to the railways shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and liable to forfeiture of property and fine which may extend to Rs20,000.

This includes unlawfully throwing or causing to “fall or strike at against, into or upon any property belonging to the railways, including rolling stock forming part of a train an explosive substance, wood, stone or other matter or thing with intent, or with knowledge that they are likely, to endanger the safety of any person being in or upon such property”.

Now the law ministry has proposed that in section 127 the word "death" be substituted with "remainder of life".

Last week, Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara said Pakistan had not executed any death row convict in the past 22 months. She also appreciated the country’s top court’s decision to prohibit meting out the capital punishment to prisoners who were severely mentally ill.

She reminded that Pakistan had signed the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2010 – well before the existence on GSP+. The ICCPR calls for the death penalty only to be applied to the “most serious crimes”.

Since the de-facto moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in 2014, the country has executed 516 individuals. Pakistan also has almost 4,000 individuals on death row – around 15% of the world’s death row population.

(source for both: thenews.com.pk)

INDIA:

Kerala court convicts man for killing wife using snake

Kollam Additional Sessions Court on Monday found Sooraj, the prime accused in Uthra murder case, guilty and the quantum of sentence will be pronounced on Wednesday.

The court found him guilty under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 328 (causing hurt by means of poison) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) of the IPC.

Sooraj was brought to the court around 12 noon and he remained impassive during the proceedings . When the chargesheet was read, the accused said he has nothing to say. Prosecution had demanded capital punishment pointing out the brutal nature of the crime and Uthra's family said they are grateful to the investigating team and prosecution. "We want him to get maximum punishment," said Uthra's brother Vishnu.

‘Biggest challenge was to prove snakebite was not natural’

Sooraj had used a cobra to murder his wife and it was his 2nd attempt that took the 25-year old's wife. Uthra’s body was found on May 7 at her home in Anchal and she had survived an earlier snakebite and a viper was used for that. Her husband had paid ?10,000 for the snakes from a handler, who later turned approver. The investigative team had conducted the autopsy of the snake to confirm that the DNA of the same snake was found in the bottle in which Sooraj kept the cobra. A dummy trial was also carried out to collect scientific evidence that proved the bite was not natural but induced.

‘Unconventional methods to prove Uthra was murdered’

Considering the rare nature of the case, the investigating team had to go for some unconventional methods to prove Uthra was murdered.

A team of officials from Animal Husbandry, Forest and Police Departments along with forensic experts dug out the carcass of cobra and conducted its autopsy. Though it was buried around 20 days back, its outer skin, scales, fangs and hood were found intact and it was confirmed that the reptile was a cobra. Later, the DNA of the same cobra was found in the jar in which Sooraj had kept the snake and the DNA match turned out an important piece of evidence.

In order to prove the bite was induced and not natural, the Crime Branch officials conducted a dummy trial at Forest Training Institute in Arippa. The cobra was let loose on the life-size dummy and a portion of its hand was wrapped in raw chicken meat warmed to body temperature. The measurement of natural bites and those induced by pressing the cobra on its head were taken.

The prosecution had submitted the report showing the difference in fang width in natural and induced cases. The fang width in the bite mark found in Uthra's body was similar to induced and based on the trial it was also argued that consecutive bites on the same place are not possible in snakebite cases.

(source: The Hindu)

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

Social reforms needed for reducing rape cases in India: experts----Research reveals that 65% of the total death sentences by trial courts in the country involved sexual offenses in 2020

Earlier this year, a litigation and research group at the National Law University in India's capital New Delhi revealed that 65% of the total death sentences by trial courts in the country involved sexual offenses in 2020.

Despite the study, legal experts believe that more social reforms, good education, women's empowerment can help reduce the high number of rape cases because the death penalty is counterproductive as a deterrent.

The study found that there were 404 death row convicts in the country in 2020, accounting for 65% of all inmates, with the highest number, 59, in the northern Uttar Pradesh state.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 32,033 cases were reported in the country in 2019, with an average of around 88 cases each day.

"At the government level, regular gender and anti-patriarchal training and sensitisation of investigating agencies in cases of sexual offenses are required," Supreme Court lawyer Rebecca Mammen John told Anadolu Agency.

She believes that all members of the executive and judicial branches, including the bureaucracy, judges, police officers, and others, require continuous gender sensitisation courses.

"It is important that we remove the burden of fighting for basic rights off women's shoulders and instead focus on holding institutions accountable and responsive to the needs and aspirations of women," John added.

The demand for the death penalty in situations of sexual offenses, John said "allows the state to posture as fighting for women's rights".

In the clamour for the death penalty, the harder work of addressing the root causes of sexual violence, including ending patriarchal mindsets, gender sensitisation, and empowerment for women and other minorities, slides under the radar, she said.

Class and caste

Rebecca also claims that the death penalty is "unequally applied and differs based on class and caste".

Poorer accused persons often do not have adequate legal representation, she said and added: "Studies have shown that people who were sentenced to death were not defended adequately in lower courts."

On why the death penalty has not deterred rape cases, which are on the rise, John said studies have shown the same result. "Dozens of studies across the world have shown that the death penalty is not a deterrent to the commission of crimes, including in cases of rape. There is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty acted as deterrence," she said.

As both crimes are punishable by death, it could act as an "incentive" for criminals to commit murder in a rape case in order to destroy evidence, she opined.

Reforms

Another Supreme Court lawyer, M R Shamshad, claimed that the death penalty was rarely used for general sexual offenses.

For brutal sexual offenses against minors, however, and "exceptionally rare cases of brutal sexual behaviour coupled with the murder of the victims, this sentence is awarded," he explained.

"Considering the vast population of India, the number of death sentences every year cannot be a determining factor," he said adding: "In recent times, awareness and sensitisation of such crime have also contributed in some expedition in such criminal trials."

He noted that the death penalty could "only be a component of overall deterrence".

He said there were other factors, including the quality of a person's basic education and awareness about the consequences of crime. "Many of them are missing in our very large population," he said.

When asked about alternatives to the death penalty for reducing rape incidents in the country, Shamshad argued that a "bigger solution" could be achieved through social reforms and the provision of high-quality education.

Strong legal regulatory rules and punitive sentencing will never help in the prevention of such crimes, he added.

Increasing the number of judges, according to the legal expert, is also important to relieve pressure on the country's judicial system.

The Ministry of Law and Justice submitted a written response to parliament in September of last year, stressing that drastic police reforms are required to restore accountability. The lawyer emphasised that the system must handle all of these factors.

(source: The Express Tribune)

IRAN----executions

4 Men Secretly Executed in Shiraz Central Prison in September

4 men were secretly executed in Shiraz Central Prison in September. They had been sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, 2 men were secretly executed in Shiraz Central Prison on September 8. Their identities have been established as Meysam Atefifard and Hadi Razi.

2 more prisoners were also executed in the prison later in the month. Rasoul Akrami and Omid Keshtkar were executed on 21 and 22 September.

At the time of writing, none of the 4 men’s executions have been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

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

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

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Father and Son, Hossein and Ramin Dadzadeh Executed on Drug Charges in Yazd

Father and son, Hossein and Ramin Dadzadeh were executed on drug-related charges in Yazd Central Prison. At least 83 prisoners, including a woman, have been executed on drug-related charges in Iranian prisons in 2021.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, father and son, Hossein and Ramin Dadzadeh were executed on drug-related charges in Yazd Central Prison on October 3.

Speaking to IHRNGO, an informed source said: “The father and son had been in prison for around 5 years and had 400 kilograms of methamphetamine and heroin in their case.”

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

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, at least 25 people were executed on drug-related charges in 2020. However, at least 83 people have so far been executed on the same charge in 2021.

On May 3, IHR published a report on the death penalty in the first 4 months of 2021 expressing concern at the significant increase in the number of drug-related executions and continues to warn of the continuation of this trend.

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Dariush Pourkhodayi Transferred for Execution in Ardabil

Dariush Pourkhodayi who is on death row for murder, has been 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 on October 8 in preparation of his execution in Ardabil Central Prison. The identity of the prisoner who was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder has been established as 28-year-old Dariush Pourkhodayi.

A n informed source told Iran Human Rights: “Dariush was a security guard at a building where a burglar broke in and Dariush got into an altercation with him. When he pushed the burglar, the man’s false tooth jumped in his throat, causing him to suffocate.”

He was transferred for execution from Ward 3 of the prison which is a youth ward.

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

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

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226 Executions Recorded in 2021: Sharp Rise in Drug Executions

According to data recorded by Iran Human Rights, at least 226 people have so far been executed in 2021, including 1 juvenile offender, 9 women and 83 drug-related executions. The sharp increase in drug-related executions has been evident since January. 3 Afghan nationals were also executed in the last month. Observed every 10 October, the World Day Against the Death Penalty unifies the global abolitionist movement and mobilises civil society, political leaders and public opinion to support the call for universal abolition of capital punishment.

The 19th World Day Against the Death Penalty has been dedicated to women by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. Iran Human Rights has published a 12-year-analysis of women and the death penalty in Iran.

In the first 10 months of 2021, executions have continued at an alarming rate despite the deadly coronavirus in Iran. According data recorded by Iran Human Rights, at least 226 people including one juvenile offender, 9 women and 217 men.

Only 42 of the recorded executions were announced by official sources Iran and 184 of the executions were recorded by Iran Human Rights through credible domestic sources and human rights defenders.

•Executions on political and security charges:

8 people were executed on political and security charges in Zahedan Central Prison, Ahvaz Sheyban and Sepidar Prisons in the first ten months of 2021. They have been identified as: Elias Ghalandarzehi, Hassan Dehvari, Ali Motayyeri, Javid Dehghan-Khold, Jassem Heidari, Ali Khosraji, Hossein Seilavi and Nasser Khafajian.

•Continuance of execution of juvenile-offenders:

Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still carries out the death penalty for juvenile offenders (under 18 years of age at the time of offence). In the past 10 months, at least 1 juvenile offender is confirmed to have been executed by Iran Human Rights. Sajad Sanjari was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder. One of his relatives had previously told IHRNGO that the victim was “a year older than Sajad and had tried to rape him.”

•Sharp increase in drug-related executions:

83 people including 1 woman have been executed on drug-related charges in the first 10 months of 2021 compared to 18 for the same period in 2020. An average of 26 people were executed annually since the 2017 Amendment to the Anti-Narcotics Laws, and no women executions were recorded until May 2021.

•Increase in execution of Afghan nationals:

In the past month, at least three Afghan nationals have been executed on drug-related charges in Iran. There are concerns that events leading to the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan have facilitated the execution of Afghan nationals.

•Qisas executions make up the majority of executions:

125 of the executions recorded in this period were qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, which is a decrease compared to 164 for the same period in 2020. The qisas executions included 1 juvenile offender, 5 women and 120 men.

•Execution statistics compared to last year:

According to the data recorded by Iran Human Rights, there is a slight rise in the number of executions compared to the same period last year, when 209 executions were recorded and 211 in 2019.

In 2002, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty declared 10 October as the World Day Against the Death Penalty with the goal of abolishing the inhuman and irreversible punishment, and is considered a turning point in the fight against the death penalty. The World Coalition consists of 140 members from 5 continents, of which 20 organisations including Iran Human Rights are members of its Steering Committee. The Committee is responsible for making necessary decisions to implement the Coalition’s strategy. It should be noted that more than two thirds of countries are abolitionist in law or practice.

(source for all: iranhr.net)

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On International Day Against Death Penalty, Iranians Rally in 21 Cities (14 Countries)

Maryam Rajavi:

•The Iranian people demand the international prosecution of Khamenei, Raisi, [regime Judiciary Chief Gholam-Hossein] Eje’i, and other henchmen responsible for massacres and murders in Iran.

•We stand for an Iran without torture and suppression and devoid of discrimination and inequality.

On the occasion of the International Day against the Death Penalty, on October 8 and 9, freedom-loving Iranians and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) condemned human rights violations and increasing executions in Iran by holding a series of rallies in 21 cities in 12 different European countries, in addition to the United States and Canada. The demonstrators demanded that the human rights violations of the religious fascism in Iran be referred to the UN Security Council and that leaders of the regime, especially Khamenei, Ebrahim Raisi, the henchman of the 1988 massacre, and Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i, regime’s Judiciary chief, be held accountable for genocide and crimes against humanity in international courts.

On October 8, the rallies took place in Washington DC, Los Angeles, Paris, London, Rome, Geneva, Amsterdam, Brussels, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. The demonstrations continued on Saturday, October 9, in Berlin, San Francisco, Dallas (Texas), Gothenburg, Vienna, Oslo, and Bucharest. The demonstrators condemned the clerical regime’s crimes and denounced the policy of appeasement towards the religious fascism ruling Iran, and any dealings with this regime that has committed the 1988 massacre. In particular, they condemned inviting Ebrahim Raisi (the mass murderer of the 1988 massacre) to the “2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP26” in Scotland. Raisi was a member of the Death Committee that ordered the execution of thousands during the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners. The demonstrators asked for the ostracization of the clerical regime and the prosecution of its leaders for crimes against humanity and genocide.

In a video message broadcast at the rally in Berlin, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), hailed the freedom-loving Iranians who participated in demonstrations in various cities in solidarity with the Iranian Resistance and in support of overthrowing the regime of massacres. She also paid tribute to 120,000 martyrs of the path of freedom, especially the 30,000 political prisoners who were executed during the 1988 massacre, 90% of whom were members and supporters of the MEK. She said: Indeed, why would the world that has declared the World Day Against the Death Penalty to convey its sense of shame and injured conscience regarding executions, a world that accepted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights over 70 years ago, tolerate a theocracy immersed in executions and massacres in Iran? And, why does the United Nations accept a regime, which according to the UN Secretary-General, is holding 85 minors on death row in its prisons as we speak?

Mrs. Rajavi reiterated: The clerical regime relies on executions inside Iran, and due to Western governments’ protracted and continuing policy of appeasement, the regime enjoys impunity abroad for its crimes. It is on this basis that [the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei installed [Ebrahim Raisi] “the 1988 Henchman” as his president. Khamenei seeks to intensify suppression, torture, and execution of all prisoners to save the regime from being overthrown, similar to the 1988 massacre. For this purpose, the regime has imposed inhumane pressures not only on political prisoners but all prisoners. The regime tortures prisoners to the brink of death and effortlessly sends them to the gallows in a bid to intimidate society and, in its view, to block the path of uprisings. She added: But today, the people’s readiness for the overthrow of the regime and the anti-suppression activities of Resistance Units have created a situation where the execution of even a single prisoner or the cries of a single detained individual under torture pushes the entire regime closer to overthrow.

Referring to the Iranian Resistance’s legal campaign that led to the Swiss Federal Court’s order to reopen and expand investigations into the assassination of Dr. Kazem Rajavi, the great martyr of human rights in Iran, in the context of genocide and crimes against humanity, as a turning point for the movement seeking justice for the victims of the 1988 massacre, Mrs. Rajavi emphasized: The horrific dossier of human rights violations in Iran, especially the regime’s actions in prisons, including in particular the ill-treatment and torture of female prisoners, must be referred to the UN Security Council. The Iranian people demand the international prosecution of Khamenei, Raisi, [regime Judiciary Chief Gholam-Hossein] Eje’i, and other henchmen responsible for massacres and murders in Iran.

The President-elect of the NCRI urged the UN Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Human Rights Council, UN special rapporteurs, and international human rights organizations to act in order to visit the regime’s prisons and meet with political prisoners.

Mrs. Rajavi’s ended her remarks by reiterating: We have risen up for an Iran without torture and suppression and devoid of discrimination and inequality; for the establishment of a democratic republic based on the separation of religion and state, and for a non-nuclear Iran, where the death penalty is abolished; an Iran with “an independent judiciary and legal system consistent with international standards based on the presumption of innocence, the right to defense counsel, the right of appeal, full independence of judges, and abolishment of the mullahs’ Sharia law.”

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI))

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Execution, the Ayatollahs’ Means for Ruling Iran

“The insatiable appetite of the Velayat-e Faqih [Guardianship of the Jurist] regime for hanging women, men, and particularly youths in public gets more and more every day… This regime commits such heinous and brutal crimes in front of the international community and despite 51 condemnations by the United Nations,” wrote the late Nader Rafieinejad, a member of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in his book titled ‘Execution, the Ayatollahs’ Means for Ruling’ more than 15 years ago.

Every year, the international community, especially human rights defenders and groups, marks October 10 as the World Day Against the Death Penalty. Activists honor the day as an opportunity to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty and raise awareness of the conditions and circumstances that affect prisoners with death sentences.

To make a world free of cruel punishments, numerous NGOs and governmental bodies, including Amnesty International, the European Union, the United Nations, and the Council of Europe, declared their support for the day’s purpose.

In our October 10 report for 2020, we shed light on the Iranian regime’s record of executions in the 1st half of 2020. According to the report, authorities had executed at least 134 inmates under ‘moderate’ President Hassan Rouhani. This number surpassed 267—becoming twice as large —as of December 31, 2020.

The victims included:

•13 political prisoners and protesters.

•10 women.

•5 juvenile offenders.

•2 prisoners with security charges.

•1 journalist.

Furthermore, prison guards tortured several inmates to death, including three juvenile offenders in different jails.

The Iranian regime also hanged hundreds of people under drug-related charges while the Parliament [Majlis] had already passed a bill banning the execution of drug-related charges due to domestic and international condemnations against the death penalty

Iran’s Human Rights Situation in 2020

In a ruthless crime, the ayatollahs’ hanged juvenile offender Mohammad Hassan Rezaei at the Lakan Prison in the northern city of Rasht on December 31, to end 2020 with one more execution. He had been arrested at the age of 16 and remained behind bars for 12 years until his execution.

According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, Iranian authorities have hanged at least 267 inmates in 2021. “The high number of Iran executions in 2021 signals worsening rights condition,” wrote Iran HRM on October 7, sounding alarm bells about the regime’s constant use of the death penalty.

Indeed, executions in Iran increased following the appointment of Ebrahim Raisi, who is notorious for the extrajudicial executions of political prisoners in the 1980s. According to the human rights association No to Prison- No to Execution, since August 5, more than 54 prisoners, including four women and four Afghan nationalities, have been hanged under the Raisi government.

#EbrahimRaisi's name is synonymous with awful crimes against humanity.

Not only did he mass murder thousands of political prisoners in #Tehran during #1988Massacre but he sentenced many inmates to amputation, lapidation, and falling.

Will the west still appease such a criminal? pic.twitter.com/2uvKRPNkVx — Iran News Update (@IranNewsUpdate1) August 5, 2021

However, being involved in executing 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 and these 54 executions are not Raisi’s mere crimes. He also upheld hundreds of death sentences during his more than 2 years as the Judiciary Chief.

Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Eje’i, the current Judiciary Chief, is currently pursuing Raisi’s path and has increased issuing and implementing death penalties to show his loyalty to the religious tyranny.

#Iran's dictator Ali Khamenei appoints notorious judge Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i as Judiciary Chief.

He was sanctioned by @eu_eeas for #HumanRightsViolations in April 2011.

His appointment is an inverse confession to the Islamic Republic's vulnerability versus #IranProtests. pic.twitter.com/SRyWm38at7 — Iran News Update (@IranNewsUpdate1) July 1, 2021

As Mr. Rafieinejad had mentioned, the ayatollahs in Iran practice the death penalty to ensure the survival of their ruling system. In recent years, particularly since 2017, the autocrats faced a new wave of nationwide protests. They witnessed how public hatred against their socio-economic failures turns social grievances into political desires and anti-establishment slogans.

To quell the people’s enthusiasm for freedom, justice, and equality, Iranian authorities recklessly use lethal force against defenseless demonstrators. However, they resort to the gallows to nip any objection in the bud.

In such circumstances and on the World Day Against the Death Penalty, the international community should hold Tehran to account for frequent executions. World powers should not ignore the horrible human rights situation in Iran for short-term economic benefits, and they should prioritize human rights values in any talks with Iranian officials, observers believe.

(source: irannewsupdate.com)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Israeli arrested in massive UAE drug bust

An Israeli was arrested in Dubai for attempting to smuggle $136 million worth of pure cocaine, Israeli media reported Sunday.

Dubai police announced that they foiled the attempt to smuggle 1100 lb. of pure cocaine hidden in a container, as part of an operation dubbed "Scorpion."

Dubai police seized 500 kilograms of pure cocaine in what has been described as "the largest ever in the region," local authorities said.

Brig. Eid Mohammed Thani Hareb, director of the Dubai Police Department's anti-narcotics department, said the suspect was under close surveillance while his home was searched. The investigation ultimately led to his arrest.

"We had previously received information about an international drug organization which was attempting to smuggle a huge quantity of pure cocaine hidden in a freight container located in a seaport, with the help of an accomplice living in the Middle East," Hareb said.

Dubai police announced that the suspect confessed to his involvement in trafficking, without revealing his identity, simply specifying that he was a "member of a Middle East gang" acting as an intermediary to the United Arab Emirates for an international drug cartel.

Dubai sources told Israel Hayom that the suspect was Khalil Abu Khamis Desuki, a resident of the central Israeli city of Lod, who has a criminal record. Desuki, 30, was reportedly arrested after a search of his car revealed a large amount of cocaine.

The sources said that he has been able to speak with his family and he told them he was fine and was treated well.

Under UAE law, drug traffickers can face the death penalty, especially if they are caught with large quantities of drugs. However, thus far, the UAE has never executed any drug trafficker, who are usually sentenced to decades-long prison terms.

Arab media said that prosecutors are likely to seek a 20-year sentence, but given the unusual scope of the drug bust, it was impossible at this time to rule out the possibility that prosecutors would seek the death penalty.

(source: israelhayom.com)

ZIMBABWE:

‘Death penalty a remnant of colonial legacy’

GLOBAL human rights watchdog Amnesty International has urged Zimbabwe to take steps towards abolishing the death penalty in line with international standards.

In a statement to commemorate the International Day Against the Death Penalty which is held annually on October 10, Amnesty International said the death penalty was against religious and humanistic values.

“Zimbabwe has practised the death sentence for over a century with one of the most high-profile executions being that of Mbuya Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana in 1898 by the British colonial authorities. To this day, her death is considered harsh, unjust and inconsiderate,” Amnesty International said.

“The death penalty is an act so final and retributive that it cannot be called a justice delivery method. As we commemorate the International Day Against the Death Penalty, in a time when Mbuya Nehanda has become a topical issue, we believe it makes sense to look back and address this stain on our national fabric.”

It said in Africa, countries were increasingly doing away with the death penalty.

Legal think-tank Veritas said while Zimbabwe had not carried out executions for the past 15 years, it has a de facto moratorium on executions, with courts continuing to sentence prisoners to death.

“These prisoners are kept in unspeakable conditions waiting for their sentences to be carried out, not knowing from one day to the next when they will be taken from their cells and hanged. As our courts continue to impose the death sentence, more and more prisoners suffer this horrible fate,” Veritas said in a statement.

Veritas said Zimbabwe needed an Act of Parliament that abolished the death penalty.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has denounced the death penalty, but has not taken steps to amend the Constitution.

(source: newsday.co.zw)

NIGERIA:

World Day Against Death Penalty: Lawyers, groups seek review of death penalty----54 countries, including Nigeria, still retain the death penalty.

In commemoration of the 19th World Day Against Death Penalty, lawyers and civil society organisations have called on the federal and state governments to review the use of death penalty in Nigeria’s laws.

The groups, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) and Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS), made the call during a media discussion on the need for the abolition of the death penalty in Nigeria.

The World Day Against the Death Penalty is observed every 10 October, with the 2021 edition themed; “Women and the Death Penalty: an Invisible Reality.”

The day unifies the global movement on the abolition of death penalty, with the civil society, political leaders, lawyers, public opinion mobilised to support the universal abolition of capital punishment.

This year’s event focuses on women who have been executed, sentenced to death, or have had their death sentences commuted, exonerated, or pardoned, while still drawing attention to the peculiarities and factors that predispose women to alleged crimes and weigh on their sentencing.

According to the Death Penalty Project, 110 countries in the world have abolished death sentence for all crimes, with Sierra Leone being the most recent country to abolish same, despite having no executions carried out since 1998.

54 countries, including Nigeria still retain death penalty, with 8 countries permitting death penalty only for very serious crimes and 32 countries still have death penalty but have not used then in the last 10 years.

According to Amnesty International, 1,477 death sentences were imposed in 54 countries, in 2020, a 36% reduction from the 2,307 sentences recorded in 2019.

“At the end of 2020, at least 28,567 people were known to be under sentence of death. The following methods of execution were used across the world in 2020: beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting,” Amnesty International said.

Death Penalty in Nigeria

Nigeria is one of the countries that upholds the use of death sentence as a capital punishment in its penal code, with judges in the high courts and sharia courts sentencing convicted persons to death.

In August 2020, an upper Sharia court in the Hausawa Filin Hockey area of Kano state sentenced a musician, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, 22, to death by hanging for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad.

In a recent statement by Nigeria’s Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, 3,008 convicted persons are waiting for their date with the executioners in the correctional facilities. This figure comprises 2,952 males and 56 females.

Mr Aregbesola, who urged state governors to sign the death warrants of the 3,008 convicted persons, said it is an avenue to decongest prisons, accelerate the wheel of justice, and curb miscarriage of justice for people spending longer terms than sentenced.

This call was, however, publicly condemned by civil societies, lawyers and international organisations including Amnesty International.

Despite the calls to sign the death warrants of people on death row, the last execution done in Nigeria was on 23 December, 2016, with 3 death row prisoners put to death in Benin Prison, Edo state.

Their executions were carried out following years of self-imposed ‘moratorium’ on death sentences in Nigeria.

Calls for review of death penalty

LEDAP and HURILAWS, in a joint statement, called for a review of the use of capital punishment in Nigeria pending a wholesome reform of the criminal justice system to foster arrival at guilty verdicts devoid of reasonable doubts.

Commemorating this year’s event, the groups urged the Nigerian government to work towards abolishing death penalty in Nigeria as it has not in any way served as deterrent for the crimes for which it is served.

Speaking on this year’s theme; “Women and the Death Penalty; an Invisible Reality,” the groups said gender discrimination, coupled with other factors such as age, sexual orientation, disability, religion, and culture expose women to structural inequalities and such prejudices can weigh heavily on their sentencing.

“This discrimination can also lead to inadequate consideration of critical mitigating factors during arrest and trial, including the specific vulnerabilities of women and likely patterns of abuse and gender-based violence that could have been triggers.

“While working towards the complete abolition of the death penalty worldwide for all crimes and for all genders, it is crucial to caution against the discrimination women in Nigeria face and the impact of such discrimination on women in conflict with the law within our criminal justice system,” the groups said.

Reacting to the July 2021 call by Mr Aregbesola on the signing warrants of death row inmates in states across Nigeria, the groups said Nigeria should rather focus on reducing the 74% of awaiting trial inmates in the correctional facilities than executing death row inmates as a decongestion measure.

LEDAP disclosed that on behalf of all death row inmates in Nigeria, it filed a suit at the Federal High sitting in Abuja in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1169/2020 Nnenna Obi & Godwin Pius v Comptroller General of Prisons & 36 Governors, seeking a declaration that the imposition of capital punishment infringes the right to dignity of human person and seeks a restraining order against the Comptroller General of Prisons and the 36 State Governors of Nigeria from executing death row inmates.

The groups called on federal and state governments to announce an official moratorium on all executions in Nigeria until all inadequacies in the criminal justice system are addressed and amend laws that provide for death sentence and replace same with life imprisonment or a term of years.

Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, Abdul Mahmud, a lawyer, social critic, columnist, and human rights advocate, said there is a need to review the use of death sentence in Nigeria and ultimately abolish it.

Mr Mahmud said the available data on death penalty does not clearly show whether this form of capital punishment serves as crime recidivism or as a deterrent.

“With the increasing rates of violent crimes often resulting in violent deaths, one questions the usefulness of the death penaltyin our penal laws and calls for its abolition.

“If the death penalty has served no useful deterrence, why still have it preserved as part of our laws? Beyond data, there’s a sense in which law provides consequences for individual violent actions, which result in death; but a long custodial sentence as life imprisonment serves as much punishment for taking someone else’s life,” he said.

The lawyer said the refusal of governors to sign death warrants for execution means that prisoners on death row may have to wait till the natural end of their lives in terrible prison conditions. He said that that raises the questions of whether long prison terms is not sufficient punishment for an offence and if the refusal of the state governors to sign death warrants of death row prisoners, while being subject to harrowing conditions doesn’tconstitute an abuse of their right to dignity.

“It can be technically argued that the long prison terms serve as punishment; but would our court be Liberal to hold that it is in view of the Supreme Court decision in Onuoha Kalu v State?” he said.

Another lawyer, Orji Ama, said the right to life is fundamental and when people take other people’s lives, justice needs to be served to the victim, the suspect and the society.

“The death penalty, why is it there? Law is actually made in order to deter criminals from committing crimes. But one thing you have to ask is that is this law actually making people not to commit crime?

“The abolition of death penalty is somehow complicated, some states still uphold death penalty for special offences. I still think for special offences, Nigeria should retain death penalty but should be given in extreme circumstance and measures,” Mr Ama said.

Mr Ama said he does not subscribe to the complete abolition of death penalty and the capital punishment should be reviewed and retained for only extreme crimes.

The lawyer said while offences like armed robbery can be given different sentences like life imprisonment, but a crime such as terrorism should not be overlooked.

“But again, currently our governors are not signing death warrants, if you go to prison,many people are still on the row. The governors are even afraid to sign death warrants.

(source: premiumtimes.ng)

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NDELPEG Newsletter: 19th World Day Against Death Penalty

Press Statement: LEDAP and HURILAWS Calls For a Review of the Use of Death Penalty Against Nigerian Women

As the world marks the 19th Anniversary Against Death Penalty; the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) and Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS) call for a review of the use of capital punishment in Nigeria, particularly against women, pending a wholesome reform of our criminal justice system to foster arrival at guilty verdicts devoid of reasonable doubts. October 10 is the day set aside globally to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. The theme for this year’s anniversary is “Women and the Death Penalty; an Invisible Reality”. This year’s event focuses on women who have been executed, sentenced to death, or have had their death sentences commuted, exonerated, or pardoned, while still drawing attention to the peculiarities and factors that predispose women to alleged crimes and weigh on their sentencing.

Gender based discrimination often coupled with other factors such as age, sexual orientation, disability, religion, and culture expose women to intersecting forms of structural inequalities and such prejudices can weigh heavily on sentencing. This discrimination can also lead to inadequate consideration of critical mitigating factors during arrest and trial, including the specific vulnerabilities of women and likely patterns of abuse and gender-based violence that could have been triggers. While working towards the complete abolition of the death penalty worldwide for all crimes and for all genders, it is crucial to caution against the discrimination women in Nigeria face and the impact of such discrimination on women in conflict with the law within our criminal justice system.

We reckon that in July 2021, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola issued a call on state governors to consider signing warrants of death row inmates in states across Nigeria as a way of decongesting the correctional facilities. LEDAP had in an earlier statement recommended that the country should rather focus on reducing the 74% of awaiting trial inmates in our correctional facilities than executing death row inmates as a decongestion measure.

LEDAP on behalf of all death row inmates in Nigeria filed a suit at the Federal High sitting in Abuja in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1169/2020 Nnenna Obi & Godwin Pius v Comptroller General of Prisons & 36 Governors seeking a declaration that the imposition of capital punishment infringes the right to dignity of human person and seeks a restraining order against the Comptroller General of Prisons and the 36 State Governors of Nigeria from executing death row inmates.

Finally, we call on Federal and State Governments to announce an official moratorium on all executions in Nigeria until all inadequacies in our criminal justice system are addressed and to amend our laws that provide for death sentence and replace same with life imprisonment or a term of years.

LEDAP Counters Aregbesola On Execution Of 3,008 Death Row Inmates

Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the proposal by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola urging State governors to sign death warrants of the 3,008 inmates waiting for execution as part of measures to decongest correctional centres in the country. According to Pamela Okoroigwe Senior Program Manager of LEDAP, the way to decongest the prison is to give attention to ensuring that the 50,992 inmates in the country’s correctional faciliites, get a fair trial with adequate legal representation which will go a long way in decongesting the correctional centres nationwide rather than call for the execution of death row inmates of a mere 3,008.

LEDAP Institutes Action for Death Row Inmates

LEDAP on behalf of all death row inmates in Nigeria filed a suit at the Federal High sitting in Abuja in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1169/2020 Nnenna Obi & Godwin Pius v Comptroller General of Prisons & 36 Governors seeking a declaration that the imposition of capital punishment infringes the right to dignity of human person and seeks a restraining order against the Comptroller General of Prisons and the 36 State Governors of Nigeria from executing death row inmates.

EVENTS

Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) and Human Rights Law Center (HURILAWS) organized a one-day media parley to solicit support for the abolition of the death penalty in Nigeria. This event commemorates the 19th World Day Against Death Penalty and is organized with the support of the World Coalition Against Death Penalty. The goal of this media parley is to draw the attention of media practitioners on the urgent need to abolish the death penalty in Nigeria following the call by the Minister of Interior urging State Governors to sign execution warrants as a means of decongesting our correctional facilities.

In commemoration of the 19th World Day Against Death Penalty, HURILAWS and LEDAP carried out a radio outreach on death penalty, calling for a review of the use of capital punishment in Nigeria, particularly against women, pending a wholesome reform of our criminal justice system to foster arrival at guilty verdicts devoid of reasonable doubts. We also call on Federal and State Governments to announce an official moratorium on all executions in Nigeria until all inadequacies in our criminal justice system are addressed and to amend our laws that provide for death sentence and replace same with life imprisonment or a term of years.

Cornell Law School (Cornell Centre on the Death Penalty Worldwide) organized a discussion in which a panel of former death row prisoners and female lawyers were invited to discuss the theme of this year's World Day Against Death Penalty. Amongst other personalities, Mrs Pamela Okoroigwe, Senior Program Manager of LEDAP was invited to speak on how the death penalty affects women differently and also on how 'The Guide' developed by Cornell Center (Defending Women Facing Extreme Sentences: A Practical Guide) will be beneficial to lawyers in Nigeria and across Africa.

In commemorating the World day Against Death Penalty, Advocats Sans Frontieres organized a discussion event around the movie "Just Mercy". The movie highlighted the important role of counsel in a capital trial.

(source: ECPM)

MALAWI:

Activists Commemorate Anti-Death Penalty Day - Tonse Urged to Abolish the Penalty

Youth and Society (YAS) - one of the local human rights watchdogs - has urged the Tonse Alliance-led government to seriously consider repealing all laws giving effect to the death penalty in line with the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations (UN).

YAS has made the appeal as local human rights activists join the rest of the world in commemorating a global day of activism against the death penalty, which falls on10 October annually.

The organization's executive director, Charles Kajoloweka, in a statement issued on Sunday morning, said YAS opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, as a violation of the right to life and Kajoloweka says, while Malawi has not ratified the Second Optional Protocol, the practice in Malawi reflects a commitment to abolish the death penalty.

"In this light, we acknowledge that since 1994, Malawi has had a de facto moratorium on the execution of the death penalty. Since the establishment of democracy, no person sentenced to death has been executed.

Malawi has made clear its commitment to this moratorium in its interactions with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and United Nations Human Rights bodies, for instance in its engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Malawi signalled its intent to continue the moratorium," reads the statement in part.

In its 2nd UPR cycle in 2015, Malawi accepted three crucial recommendations on the death penalty: (1) to continue the moratorium on death penalty; (2) to continue its efforts to review the cases of persons sentenced to death, to commute all death sentences, and put in place a moratorium with a view to the death penalty's future abolition; and (3) to review and provide appropriate re-sentencing decisions for those sentenced under the now-abolished mandatory death penalty.

Kajoloweka recalls that most significantly, in December 2016, Malawi voted in favour of the UN General Assembly Resolution "Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty."

He says this was the first time Malawi had voted in favour of this Resolution. The resolution states that the signing nations are "convinced that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty contributes to respect for human dignity and to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights."

Further, the resolution calls upon all states "to ensure that those facing the death penalty can exercise their right to apply for pardon or commutation."

Kajoloweka states that by voting in favour of this resolution, Malawi had made clear its commitment to refrain from carrying out executions.

"Remarkably, in respect to the Kafantayeni Judgment, Malawi has made a tremendous progress in re-sentencing prisoners who were on death-row.

"Despite progressive steps Malawi has taken towards abolition of death penalty, it is of grave concern that it still retains death penalty in its supreme law and statutes," he argues.

Kajoloweka says YAS holds that it is not safe for the country to continue relying on a moratorium and the goodwill of those in the office of the President on death penalty as the case is now.

He says it is worrisome that Malawian Courts continue to mete out death sentences in some capital offence cases.

He cited the sentencing to death of three people, namely Douglas Mwale, Sophie Jere and Fontino Folosani, who were found guilty of murder in Mchinji.

Kajoloweka further argues that there is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than long terms of imprisonment, as evidence shows that countries that have death penalty laws do not have lower murder rates than countries without such laws.

To reduce murder rates, the YAS executive director advises, the government must invest heavily in security to protect citizens from criminals, and not by executing people.

"Death penalty laws falsely convince the public that government has taken effective measures to combat crime. In reality, such laws do nothing to protect citizens or our communities from the acts of dangerous criminals.

"In light of the foregoing, we commend the Government of Malawi for being progressive in practice and commitments and call for the undertaking of the following steps: To abolish the death penalty through amending section 16 of the Constitution and repealing all laws giving effect to the death penalty in Malawi; to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to commute the sentences of the prisoners remaining on death row," concludes Kajoloweka.

Recently, the UN Human Rights Spokesperson Marta Hurtado expressed concern with the decision of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal to validate death penalty, overturning the verdict Justice Dunstan Mwaungulu had earlier made on the matter.

In his determination, Mwaungulu outlawed death penalty.

Hurtado said the perfected judgment of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal raised serious human rights issues in Malawi.

She argued that the death penalty is, by its nature, inconsistent with Malawi's duty to protect the fundamental right to life, and there is no evidence globally that it has a deterrent effect on serious crimes.

"The risk that an innocent person may be condemned to death, a concern in all States where the criminal punishment is still in place, is heightened in Malawi, where the law does not criminalize confessions extracted under duress, including through torture and ill-treatment, nor preclude their admission as evidence in court," reads the statement in part.

Hurtado added that Malawi has had a moratorium on capital punishment since 1994 and that even if the moratorium is now continued, the renewed uncertainty facing people who have been sentenced to death could lead to intense suffering for both themselves and their families.

She said, in particular, the prisoners on death row who believed - following the Court of Appeal's earlier April judgment - they were free from the risk of execution, now find themselves again subject to it.

"We welcome the statement of the President of Malawi, on 3 May 2021, stating that the earlier ruling abolishing the death penalty would be respected. The Court's recent clarification does not prevent the Government and the Parliament of Malawi from taking steps to formally abolish the death penalty in the country through legislation, and we would encourage these steps to be taken to definitively resolve this important issue for the country's future and the fundamental rights of its people," she said.

Hurtado emphasized that in doing so, Malawi would expand its protection of the right to life, guaranteed under international law, and would re-join the growing trend towards abolition across the world, including Africa, where 80 percent of States have now abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

(source: allafrica.com)

KENYA:

ICJ Kenya urges government to abolish mandatory death penalty

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)-Kenya has urged the government to abolish the death penalty and observe a moratorium on death sentences and executions as the world marks the Day against death penalty.

ICJ Chairman of the Kenyan Chapter Kelvin Mogeni pointed out that the government wass yet to implement a report by a task force formed in 2018 to review the legislative framework on the death penalty and other matters.

“Four years on there has not been significant policy and legislative progress made towards not only implementation of the Task force report findings but also formalizing the State’s commitment to abolish the death penalty,” noted Mogeni.

The taskforce was formed in December 2017 in line with the Supreme Court landmark judgment that declared the mandatory death sentence unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court delivered a ruling in the case of Francis Karioko Muruatetu & Another –vs– the Republic & Others in which it made a finding that the mandatory nature of the death sentence as provided for under Section 204 of the Penal Code, with respect to murder cases was not in line with the constitution.

In 2018, former Attorney-General Githu Muigai appointed a 13-member task force tasked to create a report framework to deal with the re-hearing of the sentencing of persons on death row among other issues.

That task force reported that Kenya’s criminal justice system is defective, leading to a disproportionate­­­ number of poor or vulnerable people being handed the death penalty.

The task force, chaired by the Secretary of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Maryann Njau, also recommended re-sentencing of all offenders on death row as at the time of 2017 ruling on death penalty and all capital offenders whose sentence had been commuted to life imprisonment.

“ICJ Kenya is conscious that a number of steps have been taken at the national level to abolish the death penalty including the commutation of the death sentences of all 2,747 prisoners on the nation’s death row being 2,655 men and 92 women who had been sentenced to death. Whilst ICJ Kenya lauds these steps, we are conscious that the death penalty is one which requires to be abolished not only in practice but also in law,”noted the ICJ Kenya Chairman.

Mogeni further lamented that the National Assembly is yet to push for legislative amendments consistent with the repeal of sections of the law that provide the death penalty sentence.

The task force, in its report, wanted the death penalty to be scrapped from Kenya’s law books, based on opinions, interviews with death row convicts and the factual reality that they encountered in prisons countrywide.

They urged Parliament to take the bold step of leading Kenya into a more just and humane future by abolishing the death penalty entirely.

“More specifically, the National Assembly is yet to repeal of the 5 sections of the Penal Code which provide for the death penalty as a sentence,” part of the statement read.

In a recent ruling by the supreme court in the famous Muruatetu case , a seven judge bench ruled that the case did not outlaw the death penalty.

During its inaugural sitting the 7-judge bench comprising CJ Koome, Deputy CJ Philomena Mwilu, Mohammed Ibrahim, Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u, Isaac Lenaola and William Ouko asserted that the decision of Muruatetu only applied to sentences of murder under Section 203 and 204 of the Penal Code.

Given this ruling, ICJ argues that there have been discrepancies in issuing sentences to convicts of robbery with violence and sexual offences.

“There still lacks harmonisation of the sentences meted out in capital offences particularly following the issuance of the Supreme Court guidelines limiting the application of the Francis Murutatetu decision to Murder cases only,”pointed Mogeni.

Additionally, provision for legal aid for indigent persons on death row remains a challenge with minimal financial and human resources necessary to ensure legal assistance at all stages of the trial process.

Meanwhile they called on the government through its relevant agencies is yet to issue a formal moratorium on the application of the death penalty further to ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

(source: capitalfm.co.ke)

UGANDA:

Activists want capital punishment eliminated

Human rights activists want President Museveni to reconsider his latest call for the courts of law to sentence convicts to death, instead of giving them life imprisonment. Leading human rights activist Dr. Livingstone Ssewanyana says the death penalty is no longer needed on the country’s law books since life imprisonment can suffice. However, he is concerned that a life sentence is considered too light a punishment and yet the reverse is true. The call came as Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorate the 19th World day against the death penalty.

(source: ntv.co.ug)

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

An eye for an eye has no place in a civilised society

Let me begin upfront with a definition of the subject matter. “An eye for an eye” is Mosaic Law, or lex talionis in Latin, and is a commandment found in the Old Testament Book of Exodus chapter 21: 23-27, which expresses the principle of reciprocal justice, measure for measure.

Under Roman law of retaliation, a person who has injured another person would be penalised to a similar degree by the injured party. Criminals would get as punishment precisely those injuries and damages they had inflicted upon their victims.

It appears as if Sabalwanyi would like to drag Uganda backwards by imposing lex talionis on Ugandans like many unpalatable things he has imposed upon wananchi.

On September 27, at a public event held at Uganda High Court gardens in Kampala, Sabalwanyi renewed debate on two of his pet projects, namely his incessant demand that the constitutional right to bail should be abolished and secondly that capital punishment should mean hanging of convicted killers not life imprisonment.

According to a story published in Daily Monitor of September 28 titled, ‘Museveni, Dollo clash over bail’ Sabalwanyi argued rather unconvincingly at the fourth Ben Kiwanuka memorial lecture as follows:

“The other problem I am beginning to see is the issue of life imprisonment when someone has killed a person. The one you have killed is not on life imprisonment; he (or she) is dead. So for us, it’s an eye for an eye. It must be a life for a life. This is the way people understand justice in the villages.”

He added: “This is the way freedom fighters understand it.” Quite amazing, embarrassing, mindboggling and sickening!

Why an eye for an eye is wron As a Christian, I find the concept and practice of an eye for an eye obnoxious, outrageous and totally unacceptable. It’s contrary and diametrically opposed to Christian doctrine and especially to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount which some scholars argue is the equivalent of a keynote address, Jesus Christ makes the following remarks about reciprocal justice.

“You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But now I tell you; do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap you on the left cheek too. And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well.” Matthew 5: 38-40 (GNB).

Make no mistake, the new law Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount is neither surrender nor a sign of weakness because Scripture teaches us to leave revenge to God who has promised to pay back all who have wronged us, as Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:17-21.

An eye for an eye is a backward, primitive and shameful practice which has absolutely no place whatsoever in a civilised, democratic and God-fearing country and the modern world. On the contrary, an eye for an eye will leave the world blind. It’s amazing, incredible and mindboggling that anybody would boast and brag openly about the virtues, if any, of reciprocal justice.

On the question of bail, Sabalwanyi met the NRM parliamentary caucus on September 28 and urged NRM MPs to support his proposal to deny bail to suspects of serious crimes such as murder. I am glad a majority of NRM MPs rejected his proposal.

I wish they had done so in 2017 when the age limit was removed. All MPs should stand firm and reject attempts to deny Ugandans the right to bail.

(source: Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat----monitor.co.ug)

GHANA:

see: https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/I-hope-Ghana-will-soon-abolish-death-penalty-Sosu-1376794

BELGIUM

Sophie Wilmès stresses Belgium’s support for end of death penalty

Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès on Sunday reaffirmed Belgium’s commitment to an end to capital punishment worldwide, on the occasion of the 19th European and World Day against the Death Penalty.

This year the Day focuses on women, Belga News Agency reports.

“In some countries, women are sentenced to death more often than men for crimes involving sexual morality, such as adultery. Moreover, mitigating circumstances related to gender violence and abuse are rarely taken into account during the criminal process,” Minister Wilmès is quoted as saying in a press release issued on Sunday by the Foreign Ministry.

“The death penalty thus violates not only the right to life, but also other human rights such as the right to equality and non-discrimination. Above all, it remains a cruel punishment and an unacceptable violation of human dignity,” she added.

The death penalty was abolished in Belgium in 1996. However, the last execution in this country was in 1950.

Belgium is the co-sponsor of a resolution on transparency in the application of the death penalty adopted on Friday last by the UN Human Rights Council.

This resolution, which has the support of about 60 States, “calls on countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure transparency in the imposition and execution of this punishment, including in their methods of execution, and calls on countries that still carry out secret executions to stop this practice, Wilmès explained.

The resolution, which is part of Belgium’s efforts in pursuit of the objective of total abolition of the death penalty for all crimes throughout the world, “demonstrates Belgium’s dynamism in protecting and promoting human rights,” according to the Foreign Ministry statement. “This motivates our country to apply for a seat on the Human Rights Council for the period 2023-2025,” it added.

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. It addresses situations of human rights violations and makes recommendations on them.

The Council, which replaced the former UN Commission on Human Rights, is made up of 47 UN Member States, which are elected by the UN General Assembly.

(source: The Brussels Times)

EUROPEAN UNION/GUYANA:

EU urges Guyana to formalise death penalty moratorium

The European Union (EU) Sunday urged Guyana to formalise its de facto moratorium on the death penalty into a de jure moratorium as a step towards the abolition of the death penalty.

In a statement in observance of the World/European Day Against The Death Penalty today, the EU said that the abolition of the death penalty worldwide represents one of the main objectives of the EU’s human rights policy.

“The EU will continue using all its available tools of diplomacy and cooperation assistance to work towards the abolition of the death penalty in countries where it still applies. The EU is a leading institutional actor and the lead donor to the efforts by civil society organizations around the world in the abolition of the death penalty”, the statement said.

The EU asserted that the imposition of the death penalty contravenes the right to life. It also argued that the death penalty does not deter crime more effectively that other punishments.

Though death sentences continue to be handed down by the courts here, the penalty has not been enforced here since August of 1997.

In December, 2018, for the 1st time, Guyana shifted its stance from opposing a moratorium on the death penalty, and instead, abstained from the vote at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

It was among 32 states to do so, with 121, including Dominica, having voted in favour of the death penalty moratorium, and 35 states, including the USA, India, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran, voting against it.

On Saturday, France announced that it will launch a campaign for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty as part of its upcoming presidency of the European Union.

According to Reuters, President Emmanuel Macron said a conference will be held in Paris gathering civil society groups from countries where the death penalty is in use or suspended. The President was at the time delivering a speech to mark the 40th anniversary of France’s abolition of the punishment.

France, which will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in the 1st half of 2022, will also work with other member states towards a United Nations resolution requiring countries to report each year the number of death penalty sentences given and executions carried out, he said, Reuters said.

(source: Stabroek News)

OCTOBER 10, 2021:

FLORIDA:

State will seek the death penalty for deadly shooting of Nassau deputy

The state of Florida will pursue the death penalty for Patrick McDowell, who is accused of shooting and killing a Nassau County deputy in September, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

On Friday, a grand jury indicted Patrick McDowell, 35, for first-degree murder. In addition, McDowell has been charged with 1 count of injuring or killing a police dog and 8 counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, First Coast News reported.

After allegedly shooting Deputy Joshua Moyers twice in the face and the back, during a traffic stop, McDowell was the subject of a 5-day-long manhunt.

Moyers died from his injuries in the hospital.

(source: First Coast News)

IDAHO:

Judge has granted Chad Daybell’s request to move his trial

A judge is moving the trial of Chad Daybell, who is accused in the murder of his wife's 2 children, as well as the murder of his 1st wife.

On Friday, an Idaho judge granted Daybell's request to move his trial. That's after this week's hearing considering the request, which was made in July.

Daybell is accused of conspiring with his current wife, Lori Vallow to murder her two children – 17-year-old Tylee Ryan and seven-year-old J.J. Vallow, along with Daybell’s former wife, Tammy.

Prosecutors are asking for the death penalty.

A new date for Daybell’s trial, which was previously scheduled to start in November, has not yet been set.

Vallow’s case has been put on hold indefinitely, after a judge determined she was not competent to stand trial.

(source: KTIV news)

OREGON:

Death penalty bill did not mean what legislators intended

Senate Bill 1013, passed by the 2019 Oregon Legislature, has had a tumultuous history. It’s a bill about the death penalty. And it’s proven to mean more than legislators said they intended.

Aggravated murder is the only crime in Oregon that qualifies for the death penalty. SB 1013 narrowed the definition of aggravated murder so it applies to organized terrorism that kills 2 or more; premeditated murders of children younger than 14 and in other very specific instances.

Legislators said the bill would not be retroactive. Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill into law, and she said that is what she believed, too. Others thought it might be retroactive.

The Bulletin’s editorial page called on 2019 legislators to revisit the law to make that clear. The Bulletin’s editorial board opposed the death penalty then and opposes it now. But we urged that the Legislature should clarify what it intended the law to mean.

In the past week, the Oregon Supreme Court struck down the death sentence of an inmate because legislators altered “prevailing societal standards” for executions with a 2019 law change. It may even eliminate the death penalty for all inmates facing it.

The court acknowledged in its ruling that the Legislature did not intend to make SB 1013 retroactive. There’s also, though, a section of the Oregon Constitution that prohibits disproportionate punishments. And so it ordered David Bartol, who killed another inmate in prison, to be resentenced.

It’s a good outcome for people who do not support the death penalty. But it may cause Oregonians to question what legislation means even if legislators tell us what they meant.

(source: Editorial, The (Bend) Bulletin)

USA:

Boston Marathon bombing victims split on death penalty in U.S. Supreme Court case

Liz Norden and Mikey Borgard both suffered when 2 bombs exploded at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, sending shrapnel through a crowd of hundreds of people. Norden’s 2 adult sons lost their right legs. Borgard sustained hearing loss and a brain injury.

Yet they and others affected by the attack that killed 3 people and wounded 264 more disagree about whether convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be executed - a question the U.S. Supreme Court will consider here on Wednesday when the justices hear the U.S. government's bid to reinstate his death sentence.

“I know a lot of people didn’t him want to get the death penalty for their own reasons,” said Norden, who sat through the three-month 2015 trial. “Everybody’s entitled to their own thing. But for me, I wanted it.”

Borgard, who also attended the trial, is against executions of anyone.

“I think it’s easy for folks to say that they’re anti-death penalty, until something happens to them,” he said. “But I was never pro-death penalty in this case.”

The Supreme Court is set to hear the federal government's appeal of a lower court ruling overturning Tsarnaev's death sentence here and requiring a new trial to determine whether he should get life in prison instead.

2 ethnic Chechen brothers carried out one of the most shocking attacks on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

Tsarnaev, who is 28 now and was 19 at the time, and his older brother Tamerlan detonated two homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line on April 15, 2013. Those killed were Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu, 23; restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29; and Martin Richard, 8.

After four days in hiding in the Boston area, the brothers tried to flee, killing Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunfight with police that ended when his younger brother ran him over with a stolen car.

Jurors in 2015 found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty here of all 30 counts he faced and later determined he deserved execution for a bomb he planted that killed Lu and Richard.

A REVERSAL

The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled that the trial judge “fell short” in screening jurors for potential bias following pervasive news coverage of the bombing and ordered a new death-penalty phase trial.

The 1st Circuit stressed that even if he is not executed Tsarnaev would remain in prison the rest of his life. He is incarcerated at the “Supermax” federal prison in Florence, Colorado.

The Justice Department launched its appeal during Republican former President Donald Trump’s administration and continued it after Democrat Joe Biden took office even though Biden opposes the federal government’s use of the death penalty.

Opposition to the death penalty, as shown in opinion polls, has increased in the United States, while its use has declined here. Liberal-leaning Massachusetts is among the growing number of U.S. states that have abolished capital punishment in state courts. Polls in 2013 and 2015 found a majority of Boston voters favored a life sentence for Tsarnaev.

This year’s marathon is being run on Monday, 2 days before the Supreme Court’s arguments.

Even during his trial, victims disagreed about Tsarnaev’s punishment. Bill and Denise Richard, Martin’s parents, in a 2015 open letter published in the Boston Globe newspaper urged prosecutors not to pursue the death penalty, saying it would prompt years of appeals and “prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives.”

During conference calls organized by prosecutors over the years, survivors expressed views on both sides of the debate, according to Andrew Lelling, the former top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts.

“That’s one of the problems with death-penalty litigation - it just goes on too long, to the detriment of victims who have to suffer through the repeated appeals,” Lelling said.

Borgard, 30, said he worries that the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, could use this case “as a rationale for the execution of other human beings.”

“For me personally that means that I’m implicated in other cases,” Borgard said. “And I’m really not okay with that at all.”

Norden, 59, said her views favoring execution for Tsarnaev have not changed, asking: “If this doesn’t warrant the death penalty, what does?”

(source: Reuters)

GLOBAL:

Joint Declaration on the Death Penalty and Women’s Rights 19th World Day Against the Death Penalty - 10 October 2021

As we mark the 19th World Day Against the Death Penalty dedicated to women facing capital punishment, who have been sentenced to death, who have been executed or who have been pardoned or found not guilty, the members of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and allies of women sentenced to death take this opportunity to:

• Draw attention to the gender-based discrimination that confront women facing the death penalty during in the lead-up to the offense, investigation, trial, sentencing and appeal phases. Gender- based discrimination can occur against women facing capital punishment and in many cases mitigating circumstances that might benefit women sentenced to death are not considered. For instance, this is particularly true in cases of sexual and gender-based violence.

• Emphasize that gender-based discrimination does not operate in isolation but combines with other forms of discrimination, including those based on age, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status, disability amongst others, that expose women on death row to multiple and intersecting forms of inequality.

• Note that there are gaps in the information available on the number and status of women who have been sentenced to death, executed, had their death sentences commuted or pardoned, due to a lack of accurate and disaggregated figures in many countries.

• Recall that in many countries conditions of detention threaten the physical, and psychological integrity and even the lives of all prisoners, and that women on death row face unique challenges due to their specific needs, such as lack of gender-sensitive medical care and hygiene products, and threats of gender-based violence.

We recommend that governments in countries that have yet to abolish the death penalty/ still retain the death penalty:

1. Abolish the death penalty for all offences, regardless of gender;

2. Pending full abolition, we call on governments to:

a. Eliminate the death penalty for offenses that do not meet the threshold of "most serious crimes" under international law and standards;

b. Repeal provisions that allow for the mandatory imposition of the death penalty, which does not allow judges to consider the circumstances of the offense for the defendant at sentencing;

c. Acknowledge the compounding forms of violence and discrimination experienced by girls and women - including gender-based violence, early and forced marriage; review laws, criminal procedures, and judicial practices and implement policies and legislative reforms to protect women from these abuses;

d. Ensure that the criminal justice system takes full account of any mitigating factors linked to women's backgrounds, including accounts of prior abuse, mental and intellectual disabilities;

e. Prevent the disproportionate prosecution and detention of women for "moral/sexual" crimes, and consider decriminalizing these types of offenses;

f. Promote the training of all those involved in the investigation, representation and prosecution of crimes involving women on gender-based discrimination and violence, pathways to crime, and gender-sensitive mitigations;

g. Ensure that all those facing the death penalty have access to free and effective legal counsel experienced in capital representation, and that are trained to recognize and bring forward claims mitigating factors, including those linked to gender-based discrimination;

h. Develop and implement programs to prevent gender-based violence and discrimination, and promote women and girls’ human rights.

Signatory organizations:

1. ACAT-France

2. The Advocates for Human Rights

3. Amnesty International

4. Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)

5. Asia Catalyst

6. Association de Jeunes pour la Paix et la Démocratie

7. Association française des femmes des Carrières Juridiques

8. The Autonomous Women’s Center

9. Avocats sans frontières France

10. Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights

11. Capital Punishment Justice Project

12. Center for Prisoners’ Rights Japan

13. Centre d’Information et de Documentation sur les Droits de l’Enfants et de la Femme

14. Colegio de Abogados y Abogagas de Puerto Rico

15. Collectif Libérons Mumia

16. Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide

17. Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend)

18. Demir Leblebi Kadin Dernegi

19. Eleos Justice, Monash University

20. Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)

21. Federation of Women Lawyers FIDA Cameroon

22. Femmes for Freedom Algemeen

23. Focal Commissioner for Women’s Human Rights and the Anti-Death Penalty Campaign Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines

24. Foundation for Elimination of Violence Against Women – Mitra Perempuan

25. Gender Violence Clinic – University of Maryland Carey School of Law

26. German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

27. Girl Concern

28. Human Rights & Democracy Media Center SHAMS/Palestine

29. International Commission of Jurists

30. Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU)

31. Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Information Center

32. Karapatan Alliance

33. Kenya Human Rights Commission

34. lifespark

35. Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés

36. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)

37. Mamas for Burundi Association

38. Medical Action Group

39. NederlandstaligeVrouwenraad

40. Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA)

41. Pax Christi Uvira asbl

42. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor

43. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)

44. Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court

45. Planète Réfugiés – Droits de l’Homme

46. Punjab Women Collective

47. REPECAP – International Academic Network for the Abolition of Capital Punishment

48. Réseau des Femmes Leaders pour la Développement

49. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights

50. The Sentencing Project

51. Serve

52. Sosyal Yardimlasma Rehabilitasyon ve Adaptasyon Merkezi (SOHRAM- CASRA)

53. Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program

54. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines

55. Texas After Violence Project

56. UIA-IROL (Institute for the Rule of Law of the International Association of Lawyers)

57. Vision des Filles Leaders pour le Développement

58. Women and Child

59. Women and Harm Reduction International

60. Women Information Network

61. Women’s Committee - UIA (International Association of Lawyers)

62. World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

(source: ECPM)

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

Olympics should ban countries who punish being gay with death penalty says Tom Daley----Tom Daley says sporting events should not be hosted in a country that can give the death penalty to people who are LGBT

Tom Daley has called out countries who still punish being gay with death and wants to see them banned from the 2024 Olympics.

Plymouth's diving star said he wants to help “create change” before the Paris Games, which kicks off in three years' time.

Speaking at the Attitude Awards in London, he described the last Olympics as a "great step forward" with more openly LGBT athletes competing than all previous Games combined.

The Team GB athlete went on to call out countries who still use the death penalty to punish being gay, as reported by The Mirror.

Tom said: “There are still 10 countries that punish being gay with death that were still allowed to compete at the Olympic Games. I think that is quite shocking to a lot of people.

“I want to make it my mission, hopefully before the Paris Olympics, to make it so that the countries that criminalise and punish by death LGBT people are not allowed to compete.”

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association the death penalty is the legally prescribed punishment for consensual same-sex sexual acts in Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and parts of Nigeria.

ILGA say the death penalty could potentially also be imposed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia and the United Arab Emirates.

“Those countries where you can’t be yourself should not be allowed to compete at the Olympic Games,” Daley added. “And they definitely should not be allowed to host an Olympic Games.

“The World Cup coming up in Qatar has extreme rules against LGBT people and about women and I think it should not be allowed for a sporting event to host in a country that criminalises against basic human rights - so that is going to be my mission now to try and change that.

“I am incredibly lucky to come from Great Britain where I am able to be my true authentic self and compete without worry of ramification.

“And I feel like wherever you are born you should be able to have that stress taken away from you.”

(source: plymouthherald.co.uk)

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

see: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/10/infographic-which-countries-still-have-the-death-penalty

AFRICA:

For African nations, capital punishment is a grim colonial legacy that lingers on----On the World Day Against the Death Penalty, the tide is turning in west Africa against this tool of colonial repression and racism

In July, Sierra Leone became the 23rd African country to abolish the death penalty. Although its use across the continent has dwindled – thanks to concerted efforts from human rights organisations and governments – the death penalty remains on many more countries’ statute books due to its strong colonial legacy.

During the colonial period, punishments that were being abandoned in Europe found fertile ground in Africa. Among them was the death penalty, which was deployed as a key element in the mechanism of colonial repression.

While imprisonment became the most common response to crimes in colonial Africa, the death penalty was at the heart of the colonial project, its practice deeply woven into the fabric of state formation and citizenship building.

The 1890s were a formative time for the death penalty in Africa. It had been introduced in British Africa, in the Belgian Congo and in German Africa. But it was mainly practised in French Africa around this time, which corresponded with the end of the military conquests in the region and France’s early efforts to consolidate its rule through an established politico-legal administration.

The death penalty was first introduced in the region in Senegal, France’s oldest colony in west Africa, as early as 1824, soon after the French took possession in 1817. But it was not enforced until 1899. That year the first public guillotine execution took place in Saint-Louis, the colony’s administrative capital, at a time when the Third French Republic turned away from public executions.

Senegal was the only country in French West Africa to use the guillotine. In French Equatorial Africa, French Togo and French Cameroon, the firing squad remained the main execution method until 1957.

The death penalty in French Africa was an institution with a complex, messy and layered history. It moved beyond legal justice and was shaped in many ways by political and social factors. Alongside its role to mete out punishment and maintain law and order, the death penalty in French Africa was also displayed as an instrument of state authority and legitimacy.

From its institutionalisation in the 1890s until the 1960s, when France withdrew from most of its colonies in the region, the politics of the death penalty navigated between imperial ideas and local practices.

Crimes such as gang attacks, armed pillage, rebellions, conspiracy to rebel against the colonial administration – all threats to the colonial economy and the protection of French assets in French West Africa – were punished by death.

But numerous legislations that reflected cultural assumptions about Africans – such as their natural savagery and barbarism, primitive character and natural instinct for violence – continuously reshaped how the death penalty was put into practice.

Capital crimes were constantly redefined to respond to growing concerns over any kind of criminal act or behaviour, which led to an expansion of the categories of capital crimes throughout the colonial period. Colonial judges, most of them administrators with no judicial training, were bestowed with discretionary powers to define what constituted a crime and handed down death sentences based on African customs that they knew nothing about or had limited understanding of.

Sierra Leone abolishes death penalty

The death penalty was deeply rooted in racism. It was politicised and weaponised as colonial administrators targeted and profiled particular ethnic, religious or political groups as potential capital criminals or suspects. Colonial judges built their prosecutions on the characters of African defendants rather on the circumstances of the crimes they had committed. Racist stereotypes and prejudice created the ground for the criminalisation of activities such as witchcraftand cannibalism. Colonial judges severely prosecuted these crimes, which stood as evidence of the so-called “savagery” of Africans, legitimising the necessity of the French’s “civilising mission” in Africa.

The death penalty did not end with the demise of European colonialism in Africa – Senegal did not abolish the death penalty until 2004. Instead, the continuity of colonial legislation and traditions surrounding the death penalty shaped its practice in countries long after independence.

Today, many African countries are still reckoning with this gloomy inheritance from colonialism. But with the growing momentum of the anti-death penalty movement across the continent and the world, there is good reason to think more countries will do away with the ultimate sentence.

(source: Opinion; Dr Dior Konaté is a professor of African history at South Carolina State University. She is the author of Prison Architecture and Punishment in Colonial Senegal. She is currently working on a book titled Constructing Death: Capital Punishment in Colonial Senegal----The Guardian)

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

Rights group calls for urgent abolishment of death penalty----In Africa, Sierra Leone joined others in outlawing punishment, but Egypt, Somalia, Botswana continue to uphold practice

Amnesty International has urged countries that still retain the death penalty to abolish it.

“Immediately establish a moratorium on all executions and commute all death sentences,” the rights group said in a report to mark World Day Against the Death Penalty, observed annually Oct 10.

Amnesty wants countries still using the death penalty to remove the punishment for all crimes, including drug trafficking, and order a judicial body, whether existing or established, specifically for that purpose.

It wants such a body to review all cases where a death sentence was handed down to commute the rulings as a matter of urgency.

The rights watchdog noted that while some countries in Africa have abolished the death penalty, some are still implementing it.

Sierra Leone joined Chad and other African countries in outlawing the death penalty, but Egypt, Somalia, and Botswana, among others, continued to uphold the punishment.

According to Amnesty, in 2020 Egypt conducted 107 executions -- a threefold increase, while Somalia executed three people, a decline compared to 2019. South Sudan reported two executions and Botswana had 3.

It said 2020 was marked by a further global decline in the use of the death penalty, with the coronavirus pandemic contributing to reductions.

“At least 483 people were executed in 2020, the lowest figure that Amnesty International has recorded in at least a decade. Executions fell by 26% compared to 2019, when 657 were registered; and by 70% from the peak of 1,634 executions reported in 2015,” said the report.

It added that 2020 was the third consecutive year in which Amnesty International recorded the lowest execution figure in 10 years.

Four countries -- Iran (at least 246), Egypt (at least 107), Iraq (at least 45), and Saudi Arabia (27) -- accounted for 88% of all known executions. Amnesty said, as in previous years, that recorded global totals do not include the thousands of executions that it believed were carried out in China.

“End the imposition and implementation of death sentences on people who were below 18 years of age when the offence was committed, and if the age is disputed to give the benefit of the doubt in favour of the defendant,” the group said in the report.

The rights watchdog also wants countries that still practice capital punishment to incorporate international law and standards into their national legislation so that making appeals can be allowed in all death penalty cases.

(source: aa.com.tr)

TANZANIA:

Activists call for death penalty abolition • There have been no executions in the last 25 years - which means that there is unofficial or de facto moratorium on the death penalty

Rights activists are tussling with the government on whether the death penalty should be abolished or not.

This follows a debate on capital punishment which has been raging in the country for years now - and on which the government hesitates to make a decision on the matter. Instead, it encourages patience even as it deliberates over whether to abandon or continue enforcing the penalty.

A meeting held in Dar es Salaam yesterday - and which was convened by the European Union (EU) - attracted legal experts and other stakeholders, including local human rights activists who discussed the significance of adopting a moratorium on the death penalty, and the prospects of its abolition in Tanzania and East Africa.

Stakeholders severally referred to the consequential order made in late 2019 by the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) directing Tanzania to take action to expunge from its Penal Code the mandatory imposition of death penalty in murder cases, a decision that to this day has never been implemented.

The conference - graced by the deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Mr Anastaz Mpanju - was a way to commemorate the International Day against Death Penalty which will be held globally tomorrow, October 10, 2021.

Giving his opening remarks, Mr Mpanju said that the issue of death penalty was being recognized in the country’s statutes insisting that there have been studies which indicated that public opinion was divided with some wanting it abolished and others objecting.

However, he said that the fact that there have been no executions in the last 25 years meant that Tanzania exercised an unofficial or de facto moratorium on death penalty and only continues to retain the penalty in compliance with the deterrence principle.

“The right to life is qualified, not absolute and Article 6 (2) of ICCPR provides that sentence of death may be imposed for the most serious crimes in accordance to the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence, hence the application of the capital punishment is still in compliance with international human rights standards,” he noted.

Mr Mpanju emphasized that the government cannot make decisions on its own calling for the society to be made to understand fast why they should abolish the punishment.

He said greater strength was needed in educating Tanzanians about the importance of avoiding crimes such as murder before they can decide to go away with the punishment.

For his part, the EU ambassador to Tanzania, Manfredo Fanti, said the death penalty has not been implemented in Tanzania since 1995 - something that only awaits a decision to do away with the punishment. But, he agreed with the government’s call for an inclusive approach on the matter.

“Tanzania has been abstaining from resolutions against the death penalty. But, we hope that in the near future the country will see the significance of abolishing the punishment,” he said.

Commenting on how fortunate he was not to rule on a case involving the death sentence in the years he served as a High Court Judge, retired Judge John Luhangisa said the government had no choice but to ratify and implement the decisions already made by AfCHPR.

“Frankly, the government has not been ready to formally abolish this punishment. However, this is the time it did away with this embarrassing sentence, as already directed by the AFCHPR,” he said.

Mr Luhangisa also said that there was no political will among senior government officials, including past presidents, to enforce the law, even as there is still a goodly umber of people the death row in prison awaiting execution - adding that even judges have never really approved existence of the death penalty.

“Even the president themselves were not willing or ready to endorse the penalty and this is the more reason why we must do away with the penalty,” he stressed.

The Tanzania Law Society president, Edward Hosea, said the death penalty was a punishment of the past, and the matter should be given priority through constant engagements between stakeholders and the government.

(source: The Citizen)

EUROPEAN UNION/COUNCIL OF EUROPE:

European and World Day against the Death Penalty, 10 October 2021: Joint statement by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union and the Secretary-General on behalf of the Council of Europe

The European and World Day against the Death Penalty, the European Union and the Council of Europe reaffirm their firm opposition to capital punishment at all times and in all circumstances. The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment contrary to the right to life. Its abolition is essential to ensure respect for human dignity.

This year’s World Day is dedicated to women. Although women represent a small percentage of global death sentences, gender-based discrimination continues to impact women at all levels of the criminal justice system. In some countries, women are sentenced to death at higher rates than men for offences linked to sexual morality, such as adultery. Moreover, mitigating circumstances related to gender-based violence and abuse are rarely taken into consideration during the criminal process.

The abolition of the death penalty is primarily a question of political will. We welcome the fact that the number of countries that are still executing people has continued to fall. Last year, no executions took place in 176 countries, representing 91% of the UN member states. Every year there are new steps towards global abolition of the death penalty. On 8 October, Sierra Leone abolished the death penalty. This year saw one more abolition in the USA: the State of Virginia. President Biden’s intention to abolish the death penalty at the federal level in the United States, as well as the moratorium on executions imposed by the US Attorney General are important steps for the future.. Armenia ratified the second optional protocol on the abolition of the death penalty, and Kazakhstan is in the process of finalising its ratification. We urge Belarus to move towards abolition.

Ending the trade in goods used in capital punishment is particularly important for eliminating the death penalty. Reflecting the EU ‘Anti-Torture’ Regulation, the Council of Europe this year adopted a Recommendation that aims to stop European participation in this terrible trade (Recommendation CM/Rec(2021)2 “on measures against the trade in goods used for the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment”). We encourage all Council of Europe member states to implement it. We count on those Council of Europe member states, which have not yet acceded to the relevant Protocols to the European Convention on Human Rights, to do so without delay. The Global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade today involves 62 states. We call on all states to join it and to step up efforts towards establishing common international standards on torture-free trade.

In the run up to the 2022 World Congress against the Death Penalty, we will continue to support increased public debate and awareness-raising activities concerning the death penalty and its appalling impact on families and societies. We will not stop our work and our vigilance, our dialogue with those who have not yet accomplished abolition and our support to civil society and NGOs until no further death sentence is applied.

(source: foreignpolicywatchdog.com)

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

European Union ambassadors unite on abolition of death penalty

Today on the World Day Against the Death Penalty, the European Union (EU) and its 27 member states reaffirm their opposition to the use of capital punishment in all circumstances and call for the universal abolition of the death penalty.

Working for the global abolition of the death penalty remains at the very heart of EU's human rights priorities as it continues voicing its strong opposition to the death penalty as a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, violating the right to life.

Society must be protected and perpetrators of crimes must be held accountable, through an efficient law enforcement system and a judicial process that guarantees the rights of the defendant. However, the experience of abolitionist countries has shown that the death penalty does not deter violent crime nor contribute to a safer society. On the contrary, killing as a punishment perpetuates a cycle of senseless violence. At the same time, abolition does not lead to an increase in crime. Rehabilitation of violent offenders has also been achieved which is ultimately to the benefit of society.

The death penalty disproportionately affects members of vulnerable groups, who cannot afford experienced defence lawyers, and death row prisoners continue to represent the most marginalised sections of society. Although women make up a small percentage of death sentences globally, there are at least 800 women sentenced to death around the world.

73 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the worldwide abolition of the death penalty is closer to a reality than ever. The biennial resolution calling for a global moratorium on the death penalty at the United National General Assembly in 2020 saw a record high number of votes in favour of the moratorium, with 123 voting yes, 38 no, 24 abstentions and 8 no votes [1]. Further, of the 193 UN member states, 162 have had no executions for at least 10 years and 114 have abolished the death penalty in law.

This goes in the direction that, like torture and slavery, the death penalty will be irrevocably removed from the judicial systems of all societies.

On the other hand, there are still countries executing people and committing serious violations of international laws in the process, such as the execution of juveniles and unfair trials. In 2021 thus far, 2,397 people have been executed and there are 32,994 individuals detained on death row. There are still 55 countries where current law provides for the death penalty for ordinary crimes [2].

The theme for this year’s World Day observance, Women and the Death Penalty, must resonate when one considers that in some countries, women continue to be sentenced to death for offences such as adultery and in many others, victims of domestic violence often do not have their extenuating circumstances taken into consideration in criminal proceedings.

Indeed, here in Trinidad and Tobago, research from the International Human Rights Clinic of the Faculty of Law indicates that female remand prisoners suffer double jeopardy given the high incidence of those who are on trial for murder that have also been victims of domestic violence.

The EU has made no secret of its abolitionist stance as well as its financial support of the efforts of abolitionist organizations around the world. Thus, we will continue to work for its abolition both in international fora as well as in our political dialogue with partners around the world.

We all know the well-worn arguments on both sides of the aisle about the death penalty, but it is important to continue to dialogue with those with differing perspectives. We need to allow questions from each side to be asked and answered in the hope that it can foster greater understanding of the issue and possibly bring the minority of retentionist countries over to the majority of abolitionists.

The EU will continue to do all it can to support this effort.

(source: newsday.co.tt)

GERMANY:

Berlin To Host World Forum Against Death Penalty In 2022 - Foreign Minister

The World Congress Against the Death Penalty will be held in the German capital next year, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has announced.

"Although there is an international trend towards the suspension and abolition of the death penalty, more than 50 states still adhere to it, and a few are responsible for the vast majority of executions. Our goal is to finally get rid of this relic of the past," Maas said in a Sunday statement on the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

The foreign minister emphasized that Germany firmly rejects capital punishment and its human rights policy focuses on the abolition of the death penalty. The German Foreign Ministry says it is pursuing an active policy against capital punishment, including at international forums such as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

"... in the coming year we will bring governments and civil society together at the largest international forum on this topic in Berlin: the 8th World Congress against the Death Penalty," Maas said.

The summit will be held on November 16 next year, the German foreign ministry specified on Sunday. According to the ministry, Belarus is the only country in Europe which still applies the death penalty, while the majority of capital punishment cases occurred in China and Iran in the past year.

(source: urdupoint.com)

SLOVENIA:

Slovenia resolutely opposes the death penalty in all circumstances

Statement of the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia to Belarus, marking the World day against the Death Penalty:

Today, we are marking the World and European Day against the Death Penalty. Slovenia resolutely opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and has been striving for its complete abolition worldwide.The death penalty is inhumane, cruel, degrading, and a final form of punishment.

Global abolition is important to protect human dignity and to avoid irreparable damage it causes, particularly given the fact that no judicial system is flawless.

Slovenia urges all countries that have not yet ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is aimed at abolishing the death penalty, to do so as soon as possible.

(source: spring96.org)

UNITED KINGDOM:

The Buckinghamshire people put to death for 'sheep theft' and 'uttering'----The death penalty was abolished in 1965 in England, Scotland and Wales

The dark history of executions in the UK

It has now been more than 50 years since the last convicts were executed in Britain - but by then dozens of people had been put to death in Bucks for a variety of crimes.

It was 1965 when the Murder Act abolished the death penalty for murder in England, Scotland and Wales - but not in Northern Ireland where it survived until 1973.

Even then, a felon could theoretically be put to death for the crime of high treason, or piracy, until as recently as 1998.

However, the last executions in the UK took place on August 13, 1964, when Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans were hanged for murdering John Alan West during a robbery in Cumbria.

Meanwhile, the last execution in Bucks actually took place almost a century earlier, in 1880.

That was when William Dumbleton was hanged at Aylesbury after being found guilty of the murder of John Edmunds at Ludgershall.

Before his execution, Dumbleton admitted to slitting his victim’s throat, and his confession was recorded by the Bucks Herald.

He said: “I hope God will forgive me for my dreadful sin.

“If I had not been took, I believe I should have given myself up, I was so miserable to think I had done such a terrible thing to a poor fellow I had no ill-will against whatsoever.

'It was the beer'

“How I came to do it, I cannot tell, but it was all the beer.”

A crowd of “not more than 80” were present at Dumbleton’s execution. His death, by hanging, was “instantaneous”.

But while Dumbleton was executed for the crime of murder, others were put to death for what would be considered lesser crimes today.

For example, Henry Benyon was executed for theft of a sheep in 1801, Needles Chamberlain was put to death for forgery in 1810, and James Bassett was hanged for the crime of uttering - using a forged document such as counterfeit banknotes - in 1815.

There was even one 66-year-old man hanged for the crime of “bestiality” in 1834.

Press reports of the execution described it only as “a most heinous crime”, or a “nameless crime”.

In total, between 1800 and 1880, 42 people were executed in Buckinghamshire, all at Aylesbury.

But while William Dumbleton was the last person to be executed in Bucks, it is likely more felons were sent out of the county to be executed in other locations, commonly at prisons.

Across the UK in total, 4,642 people were executed between 1800 and 1964 for a variety of crimes.

The majority (4,304) were carried out in England and Wales, with another 322 in Scotland and 16 in Northern Ireland.

That figure does not include the 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were executed during the First World War for crimes including “desertion” and “cowardice", or the 17 men executed for spying during the Second World War.

As of 1810, 222 capital penalties could result in a verdict of execution, but by 1861, only four offences carried the death penalty - murder, high treason, arson in a royal dockyard, and piracy.

However, in practice, from 1836, only crimes of murder or attempted murder resulted in execution.

Before then, murder was still the offence most likely to result in the death penalty - but that was closely followed by burglary.

In England and Wales between 1800 and 1836, 496 people were put to death for murder, 467 for burglary, 314 for highway robbery, 217 for forgery and 162 for uttering.

There were also more people executed for horse theft (159) and sheep theft (138) than there were for the far more horrific crime of rape (124).

Some 48 people were killed by the state for “sodomy”, 30 for offences linked to rioting, 21 for high treason, and 10 for bestiality.

Another 231 people were executed in Scotland over the same period for crimes including “hamesucken” - which means assaulting a person in their own home - “stouthrief” (use or threat of violence against a householder who defends themselves during a break-in) and “throwing vitriol”, which is attacking someone with acid.

The data has come from the website Capital Punishment UK (www.capitalpunishmentuk.org), which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

It was painstakingly put together by historian Richard Clark, who now lives in America.

Richard, author of 2 published books on the subject - Women and the Noose, and Capital Punishment in Britain - said: "I have had a life long interest in the death penalty and am old enough to remember the last hangings in the UK.

“I think my interest arose from the morbid fascination that children often have with such things. I was born in 1950 and the first case I remember was that of Gunta Padola in 1959.

“I think both the crimes and the manner of execution always fascinated me and the more I continue to research them the more they do.

“The website has now run for 26 years. My reason for doing it was to provide accurate information and counter the inaccurate information, half truths and downright lies spread about the death penalty.

“I am pro-death penalty. Having researched all of the 20th century cases and understood the horrendous nature of so many of the murders, it would be hard to come to any other conclusion.

“I believe that there were some miscarriages of justice, though.”

Although capital punishment was abolished for murder in 1865, it remained a sentencing option - but only for offences of treason and piracy with violence - until 1998 when Britain became fully abolitionist.

Worldwide, 144 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice (meaning an execution has not been carried out for 10 years or more).

However, at least 483 executions were carried out in 18 countries according to Amnesty International in 2020 - which was actually a record low, and a fall of 26% from 2019.

Methods used around the world for execution include hanging, shooting, beheading, stoning, crucifixion, gas asphyxiation, electrocution and lethal injection.

For more information about capital punishment in the UK, go to www.capitalpunishmentuk.org.

(source: buckinghamshirelive.com)

PAKISTAN:

Rethinking the death penalty----There are as many as 29 women on death row. One of them has been convicted of blasphemy

As the world observes the day against capital punishment on October 10 (today) Pakistan has 29 women on death row following conviction on charges of murder, kidnapping and blasphemy.

October 10 was declared the World Day Against Death Penalty during the final declaration of the First World Congress Against the Death Penalty in 2001. It resulted in the creation of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty a year later. The Coalition is an alliance of more than 160 non-government organisations, bar associations, local authorities and unions, including Justice Project Pakistan, an NGO working for prisoners’ rights.

It is a day that unifies the global abolitionist movement and gives an opportunity to the stakeholders to highlight issues and raise awareness against the death penalty. It puts pressure on the states that have retained capital punishment to abolish it and calls for a permanent end to death penalties and executions in the world.

Each year, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty chooses a theme. This year’s theme is: Women and the death penalty: An invisible reality. The day is dedicated to women who risk being sentenced to death, who have received a death sentence, who have been executed, and to those who have had their death sentences commuted, exonerated or pardoned.

According to the latest statistics, there is a total of 3,831 prisoners on death row in Pakistan. Out of them, 2,902 are in the Punjab (2,879 men and 23 women); 363 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including one woman; 519 in Sindh, including five women; and 47 men in Balochistan. Overall, the population of female prisoners in Pakistan till September was 1,391 including 933 in the Punjab, 243 in Sindh, 185 in KP, and 30 in Balochistan.

Salma Tanveer, a former college principal, is the latest addition to the list of women on death row. A district court in Lahore recently awarded her death penalty under Section 295-C of the Penal Code. Mrs Tanveer is the first Muslim woman in Pakistan awarded the death penalty for blasphemy. A relative says her family is getting neglected and her daughter, in her 20s, is mentally disturbed.

Observed every October 10, the World Day Against the Death Penalty unifies the global abolitionist movement and mobilises civil society, political leaders, lawyers, public opinion and more to support the call for the universal abolition of capital punishment.

Superior courts have recently acquitted two Christian women – Asia Bibi and Shagufta Bibi – in two cases of blasphemy conviction. Asia says she still feels guilty and bad for the 9 years she was in jail as her two daughters were poorly treated in her absence. Shagufta’s four children have been reunited with her after 8 years.

Recently, the trial of another Christian woman, Shagufta Kiran, has commenced in Islamabad on the charge of blasphemy. Earlier this year, Kanizan Bibi, a prisoner who has been suffering from schizophrenia, had her death sentence commuted by a landmark Supreme Court judgment.

A 2018 study by Agnes Callamard, titled Judged for More Than Her Crime found that “Women in conflict with the law are particularly vulnerable to abuse and other rights violations, either at the police station, during trial or while incarcerated. Women are more likely than men to be illiterate, which affects their ability to understand and participate in their own defence.”

Observed every October 10, the World Day Against the Death Penalty unifies the global abolitionist movement and mobilises civil society, political leaders, lawyers, public opinion and more to support the call for the universal abolition of capital punishment. The day encourages and consolidates the political and general awareness of the worldwide movement against the death penalty.

Cornell Centre on the Death Penalty Worldwide estimates that there are at least 800 women sentenced to death around the world. Seven countries are known to have sentenced a woman to death in 2020: Ghana, Japan, Maldives, Taiwan, Thailand, USA, Zambia. Disaggregated data is not available for several countries including Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In 2020, amongst the 483 individuals who were executed, 16 were women located in Egypt, Iran, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Till now, 108 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Another 28 countries are abolitionist in practice and 55 retentionist. In 2020, five countries that carried out the most executions were: China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

(source: thenews.com.pk)

BANGLADESH:

Man gets death over 2017 cocaine haul in Khulna----5 others were awarded various jail terms

A Khulna court has awarded the death penalty unto a man in a 2017 narcotics case filed over the recovery of contraband cocaine worth around Tk22 crore.

The court also sentenced another to life imprisonment and 4 others to various jail terms in the same case.

Khulna District and Sessions Judge Mashiur Rahman Chowdhury announced the verdict Thursday afternoon in presence of all the accused, confirmed Public Prosecutor Enamul Hoque.

Among the accused, Bikash Chandra Biswas received the death penalty and was also fined Tk1 lakh.

Sohel Rana was awarded the life sentence and fined Tk1 lakh, while Arifur Rahman Sagir received 15 years in prison.

The remaining 3, Ershad Hossain, Bikash Chandra Mondal, and Fazlur Rahman Fakir, were all awarded 10 years imprisonment.

On August 12, 2017, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) detained the 6 drug smugglers and seized 2.25kg cocaine worth about Tk22.50 crore from different areas of Khulna.

Subsequently, RAB sued the 6 in a case under the Narcotics Control Act with Rupsha police station.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

MALAYSIA:

Abolish death penalty, suspend pending executions, say groups, MP

The groups have urged the federal and state governments to push for the Rulers to grant pardons and commute the sentences of those on death row. (AFP pic) 2 groups and an MP have spoken up on the need to abolish capital punishment and for a moratorium on all pending executions until a decision is made by the government on this.

In their statements in conjunction with the World Day Against the Death Penalty today, they said it had been proven globally that this punishment had failed to deter criminals.

In recognition of this year’s theme, “Women sentenced to or facing the death penalty”, Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto highlighted the 129 women on death row in Malaysia as of last year, adding that this was about 16% of all the women sentenced to death globally.

“Of the 144 countries that have abolished the death penalty in practice and law, Malaysia remains one of the few countries among the 51 that still believe that executing people will cause crime rates to reduce, to act as a deterrent or, worse, for justice to be served.

“Over the years, the number of men and women on death row in Malaysia has increased. But there is no sign of a reduction, with the crime rate still remaining high.”

She said that while abolition rarely received overwhelming support, the government must not avoid the issue in favour of “fame and popularity”, and must invest tirelessly in reforms to prevent the crimes that have long been punished with the death penalty, like drug trafficking offences.

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) meanwhile said that while positive progress had been made towards that end, such as the country voting in December 2020 for a moratorium on the use of capital punishment at the United Nations General Assembly, more work still needs to be done in pursuit of total abolition.

It called on the federal and state governments to push for the Rulers to grant pardons and commute the sentences of those on death row until all forms of capital punishment — mandatory and discretionary — can be officially abolished.

The group also said that inquiries must be conducted into cases where police kill a suspect to determine whether it was an “indirect death penalty” performed by the state or its agents.

It said while the last three governments had made some improvements, they were not as wide-reaching and comprehensive as many had hoped for, and called upon the new government to “finally abolish the death penalty, and until then continue to maintain a moratorium on executions”.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) reiterated its call for an end to executions too, “in line with the belief in a person’s fundamental right to life”.

It encouraged the government to follow through on its plans to scrap the death penalty, as stated by former law minister Liew Vui Keong, who in 2019 said a bill to do so was being prepared for tabling in Parliament.

The group called for the release of the report and recommendations developed by the special committee, established by the late Liew, to allow legislators and policy makers to do what’s necessary to expedite an end to capital punishment.

“Further, Suhakam encourages the initiative announced by the government in 2020, to set up a Law Reform Commission to study existing laws as well as sentencing procedures and, if found to be outdated or archaic, to recommend for the necessary amendments or repeal, thereby enabling Malaysia to be in line with international human rights standards.”

(source: freemalaysiatoday.com)

SRI LANKA:

Creating National (In)security: Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Death Penalty----Today is the World Day Against the Death Penalty

Today, when globally the call for the abolition of the death penalty is renewed and its inhumane and cruel nature is highlighted, we must recognize that the death penalty is one of the many tools of oppression used by structures of discrimination and violence.

This article sets out the way in which the death penalty functions as a tool of oppression and its role in an unrestrained national security regime that abuses the vulnerable and marginalized in the guise of protecting the state.

In Sri Lanka two wars are being waged at present; the seemingly never-ending ‘war on terror’ and the ‘war on drugs’. Both wars rely on tools of oppression; namely the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the threat of the implementation of the death penalty. Both wars have striking similarities and are related. Both wars largely impact marginalized, vulnerable and discriminated against communities, such as ethno-religious minorities and the poor.

At the intersection of the war on terror and war on drugs

Rhetoric, both in mainstream as well as social media, plays a critical role in fueling the 2 wars.

Rhetoric on the need to retain the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) rests on the supposed aim of making people safe by targeting those who are deemed deviants and not ‘proper’ citizens, i.e. terrorists, via the law. The reality however is that the PTA has created insecurity first for Tamils, then for Muslims and now dissenters generally. People arrested under this law suffer numerous rights violations as documented in the report of the national study of prisons conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. Furthermore, those arrested under the PTA are stigmatized and face multiple challenges, including accessing legal representation, which extends their incarceration. This in turn has a devastating impact on persons and their families.

The war on drugs was initiated by President Maithripala Sirisena who in 2019 sought to resume executions of those convicted of drug offences, supposedly to eradicate the drug trade. The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government has gone further and portrays the war on drugs as an extension of the war on terror. By pointing to the military’s victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the government claims the military is best suited to tackle the ‘war on drugs’ as well. This is illustrated by statements of members of the present government, particularly the President, the Commander of the Army and the Secretary of Defence, who consistently equate the ‘fight against drugs’ with the ‘fight against terrorism’, and present drug eradication as an issue of national security.

The government claims the PTA and death penalty are means through which it can increase the security of people. Yet, these are populist tools regimes use to portray their leaders as strong, i.e. a paternal figure who will safeguard the people. Gotabaya Rajapaksa for instance contested the 2019 Presidential elections on a platform of making the country safer from terror attacks. He is also a proponent of the de jure death penalty. His main contender Sajith Premadasa too claimed he would implement the death penalty for drugs and have strong counter terror measures if elected. He has since also called for those guilty of the 2019 Easter terror attacks to be sentenced to death.

I have written elsewhere about the injustices suffered by persons detained under the PTA and those on death row and how it is exacerbated both by their ethno-religious identities and their socio-economic circumstances. In this context, both wars, which are couched within the framework of national security, are fueled by different forms of profiling -ethno-religious in the war on terror and socio-economic in the war on drugs- discrimination and the perpetration of violence. The ethos which drives these wars is hyper-masculine, militarized, violent and control-based.

The dual wars are also tools of distraction. Arrests under the PTA seem to increase when the government finds the need to justify the PTA’s existence, such as prior to a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. When there is a need to distract the public from harsh economic conditions they have to endure as a result of government action and inaction, Gnanasara Thero, the Buddhist monk who spews hate and vitriol against Muslims, appears on TV and issues warnings of impending ‘Islamist’ terror attacks. Likewise, the war on drugs is a tool used to distract the public from systemic and structural dysfunctionalities, such as politicization and corruption, in the police and prison system. It could also be employed to conceal the involvement of state officials in the drug trade because, as highlighted by the Global Organised Crime Index 2021, global patterns confirm ‘the role of state actors as vectors of organized crime by facilitating or taking part in illicit economies’.

These factors point to the following. That the PTA and the death penalty are tools of oppression in a violent and rights violating national security regime that discriminates and perpetrates violence against the poor and ethno-religious minorities. That the wars on terror and drugs are used as distractions to divert attention from systemic and structural problems that need to be addressed. That national security is the catch-all net used to justify repressive state action in the dual wars.

Without fear there is no national (in)security

To sustain the wars on terror and drugs the government creates a constant state of insecurity. Impending terror attacks by ‘Islamic extremists’ and re-grouping by the LTTE are said to be ever-present, while the ‘drug menace’ is portrayed as the biggest threat to social order and well-being. Fear is hence the basis upon which public support is sought for both the PTA and the death penalty. Fear thereby becomes a useful tool to the government to deflect or counter challenges to the PTA and the death penalty by pointing to threats to national security and public demands for increased security.

Ultimately, the aim of the regime is to retain power at all cost. To such a regime the mobilization of fear becomes ‘fundamental to the state’s security provision’.

To this end, it fans the fears of the public and uses their demands for security and safety as justification for the repressive measures it employs. Public fear is weaponized by the government to normalize and create social acceptance of violence and cruelty against those it characterizes as deviants. The public supports the use of tools of repression without realizing that the reduction and prevention of crime requires creating a less violent and less cruel society in which humanity is prized, to which the PTA and death penalty are impediments.

An unchecked national security regime that functions on creating fear amongst the public to obtain support for restricting fundamental rights, can have grave social consequences. For example, in Colombia in early 2000s President Uribe introduced the concept of ‘Democratic Security’ which expected the participation of all citizens as agents of the state whereby security became a ‘collective effort’ and all citizens were expected to function as informants of the security sector, which ‘increases mistrust among communities and lowers the possibility of solidarity and political organisation’.

A national security system needs to be adequately constrained by the ‘constitutional state from above’ and should be accountable to the institutions of ‘mass representation from below (parliament, political parties, and civil society generally)’. If it is not, there emerges a condition where two systems come into existence – the normative state which is ‘endowed with elaborate powers for safeguarding the legal order as expressed in statutes’, and the prerogative or administrative state which ‘exercises unlimited arbitrariness and violence unchecked by any legal guarantees’. There is therefore the danger that ‘despite the normative value, and safeguards of certain legal mechanisms in terms of checks and balances, the entire legal system can become or de facto function as an instrument at the disposal of the political authorities’.

This danger is real.

(source: Ambika Satkunanathan; groundviews.org)

IRAN:

World Day Against Death Penalty And Iran Under the Mass Murderers Regime

October 10 marks World Day against Death Penalty. While many countries have abolished this cruel sentence or are on the verge of abolishing it, Iran, under the mullahs’ regime, holds the world record of executions per capita. The death penalty is a violation of Articles 3 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which underlines the right to life of every human being.

Since the mullahs took power in Iran, they started systematic human rights violations. Thousands of Iranians have been executed in the last four decades. The Iranian regime has been using executions as a method to intimidate the public and prevent popular uprisings.

According to independent sources like Iran Human Rights Monitor (Iran-HRM), 255 people were executed in 2020. In 2021, there have so far been 267 executions. While the actual number of executions in Iran is much higher due to the regime’s secrecy, the rising trend of executions in Iran in 2021 foretells a tragedy.

This rising trend of executions was predicted once Ebrahim Raisi ran for the presidency as the Supreme Leader’s favorite candidate. The regime’s sham 2021 presidential election ended with Raisi as the new president in June 2021. Raisi is known for his role as a member of the Tehran “Death Commission,” which decided the fate of thousands of political prisons during the 1988 massacre. During that massacre, over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members, and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

In a message on this occasion, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the NCRI said: “This year’s World Day Against the Death Penalty has been dedicated to women, which is a further cause for condemnation and expression of abhorrence toward the misogynist regime, more than any other regime.

The ruling theocracy in Iran carries out the highest number of executions against women in the modern world,” “The Iranian people demand the international prosecution of Khamenei, Raisi, [regime Judiciary Chief Gholam-Hossein] Eje’i, and other henchmen responsible for massacres and murders in Iran.”

No to the Regime of Executions & Massacres

The Imperative of International Prosecution of Khamenei & Raisi

Maryam Rajavi’s message on World Day Against the Death Penalty #StopExecutionsinIranhttps://t.co/RKhVzhJner pic.twitter.com/sbxst5zrWG — Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) October 9, 2021

When Raisi was selected as the regime’s new president, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said: “That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance, and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”

The systematic impunity in Iran underlined by Ms. Callamard was previously highlighted by 7 United Nations experts in a letter published in December. While underlining that the 1988 massacre may amount to “crimes against humanity,” the UN experts’ letter highlights “a systemic impunity enjoyed by those who ordered and carried out the extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.”

The systematic impunity in Iran over human rights violations and crimes against humanity has been fueled by the international community’s inaction facing large-scale crimes like the 1988 massacre or daily human rights abuses in Iran.

The UN experts’ letter underlines the failure of the international community to “act” regarding the 1988 massacre, “had a devastating impact on the survivors and families as well as on the general situation of human rights in Iran and emboldened Iran to continue to conceal the fate of the victims and to maintain a strategy of deflection and denial that continue to date.”

Ebrahim Raisi’s ascendency and the rising trend of executions in Iran could be described as part of the devastating impact of the international community’s failure to hold the mullahs’ regime accountable. The world community, mainly the European powers, are unfortunately recognizing this systematic impunity in Iran by engaging in dialogue with the Iranian regime. The European Union went as far as to send a high-ranking politician to attend Raisi’s inauguration on August 5. Thus, the EU formally accepted a mass murder as Iran’s president. These actions are at odds with the human rights values and principles cherished by the European Union.

In a joint statement on the eve of World Day against the Death Penalty, “the European Union and the Council of Europe reaffirm their firm opposition to capital punishment at all times and in all circumstances.”

They underlined that “This year’s World Day is dedicated to women,” yet, the EU is eagerly engaging in negotiations with a regime with the highest number of women executed in the world.

While one could argue that the EU is focusing on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and counter Tehran’s race toward an atomic bomb, it should be reminded that granting the regime impunity over human rights violations is like sending it a message of weakness. The EU’s efforts to revive the highly flawed deal that, as confirmed by the regime’s rapid restoring what it had stopped according to the deal, has only encouraged the regime to continue its provocative steps without facing serious consequences.

Engaging in dialogue with the regime, providing incentive packages, and turning a blind eye on its human rights abuses, would only render impunity and encourage Iran’s rogue government. The EU and the entire world community should hold Iran accountable for human rights violations. They should sever all ties with the regime and condition further negotiations to halt executions in Iran. The EU countries should honor their human rights principles and lead an international effort to hold Raisi as other criminal regime officials accountable for their role in human rights violations. These measures would certainly send a message of strength to the regime, thus forcing it to limit or abandon its malign activities.

(source; ncr-iran.org)

PALESTINE:

A statement for immediate release.----By “SHAMS” human rights and democracy media center.

On the international day against the death penalty: “courts of Gaza Accelerate the pace of human rights violations”.

“SHAMS” center strongly condemns the on-going issuing, and sentencing of the death penalty in the Gazan strip’s courts’, supported by the “HAMAS” government, The number of death sentences in Gaza since the beginning of this year has now reached (12), of which (8) were new sentences, and (4) were ruling in favor of death sentences in previous years. Thus, highlighting the danger of the continuation of death penalty application on a legislative level in Palestine. The number of cases in which could be charged with death penalty has reached (77), Based on the Revolutionary Penal Code 5/1979, the Jordanian Penal code 16/1960, the British mandate Penal code 74/1936 that is still applied in Gaza, which algins with the violent local cultures and traditions, that support this kind of punishment based on retaliatory views, neglecting and declining to work towards building a crime-free society.

Today, Celebrating the international day against the death penalty, with the slogan” women. And death penalty, an invisible fact”. It highlights women who had received death penalties, or that had been executed, or other women who had been acquitted or pardoned, considering that the stories of all those women remain unseen.

“SHAMS” Center herby, expresses its sympathy and consolidation with the victim “NAHLA” 26, from Gaza-Strip, whom was sentenced to death in December 2016, after violating her right of fair guarantees, and secretly holding her trial, declining her basic right of hiring a lawyer, this case, of a woman being sentenced to death, is the first sentence after the establishment of the Palestinian authority, and to be followed by another death sentence targeting a women(55) in December 2018 based on a military court. Although all cases of death sentences are rejected, it holds a greater significance and danger when its practiced against women, in the context of all violations against women, especially rooted, and on-going domestic violence against them, which confirms in the human consciousness that the state does not only refuse to protect women from violence, but also legalizes it, and practices it in the patriarchal atmosphere, especially if women in such cases were being accused of the murder of their husbands, while, on the other hand, the same crime carried out by men against their wives, sees excuses, pardons, and more lenient sentences. “SHAMS” center would like to highlight another female suffering, which is the suffering and pain of mothers of these women, who were sentenced to death.

“SHAMS” center notes and warns that, these circumstances coincide with a state of declination of the civic peace, and with a qualitative and quantitative increase in crime, in addition to a rise in gun violence, and security failure, and a deteriorating security situation, this year was exceptional, after the higher judiciary commission in Gaza issued number of decrees, organizing the work of regular courts, in which by, it was decided to resume the work on cases called “ Cases tagged with rep tape”, which schedules a table to put an end to these cases, the public persecution office hold a high interest in following the public record cases. While death penalty holds no guarantees of fair trial, since there is no reconsideration of jurisdiction in such cases, however, it is not possible for the accuracy of these ruling to be unquestioned, relating that to “Cases tagged with rep tape”, the availability of fair trial guarantees should be followed carefully, especially for cases igniting the public opinion.

“SHAMS” center stresses on its rooted positions against the death penalty, for the violations of human rights it holds, majorly, the right to live, and to the pain and suffering it causes to civilians who are sentenced with them, as well as being a form of mass punishment, targeting the family of the victim, and it is usually applied to poor, marginalized groups.

Hence, “SHAMS” center urges civil institutions and governmental officials, to implement the following recommendations:

1. The political Palestinian system and its institutions, must comply with the Palestinian international legal commitments of the international covenant of political and civil rights, and its optional protocols, that requires the abolishing of the death penalty for all the states signing the convention, that’s by publishing in official newspaper and aligning with national legislations.

2. The courts of Gaza must seize the violations of the right to live, through issuing death sentences against civilians, and to lobby against enhancing the fair trial guarantees in the judiciary environments, as well as promoting integrity, and transparency.

3. Civil institutions intensively working against the death sentence, by promoting surveillance on the judiciary system institutions, especially court sessions, and putting more efforts in the observative context, as well as coordination and partnership with civil, regional, local, institutions working against the death penalty sentence, thus achieving better networking and exchanging experience in this field.

(source: The Human Rights and Democracy Media Center “SHAMS”/ Palestine)

OCTOBER 9, 2021:

TEXAS----stay of impending execution

Texas judge halts execution of inmate who wants chaplain to pray while he gets lethal injection

A federal judge in Texas has halted the execution of an inmate who says state prison officials are violating his religious rights because they will not allow a chaplain to pray and have physical contact with him while he is put to death.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt on Thursday stayed the execution of Stephen Barbee, who argued that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was violating his religious rights as a Christian.

Barbee was sentenced to death in 2006 after being convicted of capital murder for killing his pregnant girlfriend and her 7-year-old son.

He is scheduled to receive a lethal injection on Oct. 12, but the judge ruled that the court needs more time to resolve “serious factual issues” surrounding his religious rights and the prison’s security concerns.

“This court cannot answer those questions in the short time remaining before the looming execution date,” the judge wrote.

In his lawsuit filed on Sept. 21, Barbee argued that he wants his spiritual adviser to be inside the execution chamber and to audibly pray and “physically touch” him “in order to confer ministrations and a spiritual blessing upon him at the time of his death.”

He filed the suit after the state prison system denied his request based on its “no speaking” and “no contact” policies.

Judge Hoyt, however, found that there is no reason to doubt Barbee‘s religious beliefs and that he likely will be able to support the claim that the prison’s limitations in the execution chamber substantially burden his religious rights.

The prison argues a spiritual adviser could “‘frustrate the execution’ by creating a disruption, may try to stop the execution by pulling IV lines, may hinder the execution team’s ability to see or hear the inmate as he dies, may block the witnesses’ view of the execution process, and may impede access to the inmate should something go awry with the execution.”

But Judge Hoyt said the prison provided little information for him to determine whether officials are using the least restrictive means to address the security concerns.

“The record now before the court is too [sparse] to explain why the background check, training and threat of criminal prosecution for a non-prison individual cannot adequately minimize risk, especially in comparison to the minimal execution-specific training formerly given to prison chaplains,” he wrote.

(source: The Washington Times)

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

Texas executions face delays over religious rights claims

Executions in the nation’s busiest capital punishment state face delays amid legal questions over Texas’ refusal to allow spiritual advisers to touch inmates and pray aloud as condemned individuals are being put to death.

It’s unclear when Texas may carry out another execution after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear religious freedom claims from death row inmate John Henry Ramirez. The court blocked his execution last month, about 3 hours after it could have been carried out. Several other inmates have since made similar claims, and courts have put some of their executions on hold.

“It would be unusual for somebody who has the same issue to not get a stay while the Supreme Court is deciding that issue. It would be very unusual,” said Michael Benza, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

A ruling from the Supreme Court could be months away. It’s set to hear oral arguments on Nov. 1.

Ramirez says the state is violating his religious freedom by not letting his spiritual adviser lay hands on him and pray out loud as he is executed. Texas prison officials say that direct contact poses a security risk and that prayers said aloud could be disruptive.

The most recent delay was for Stephen Barbee. He was set to be executed Tuesday, but U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt in Houston ruled Thursday that Barbee has initially shown Texas’ “limitations in the execution chamber substantially burden the exercise of his religion.”

“I am very grateful for the stay of execution in Mr. Barbee’s case as it will allow the court time to evaluate these important religious rights issues,” Richard Ellis, Barbee's attorney, said in an email Friday.

Courts already had granted delays for 2 other inmates — Ruben Gutierrez, scheduled for Oct. 27, and Fabian Hernandez, set for Nov. 3 — at the request of prosecutors. Kosoul Chanthakoummane, set to die Nov. 10, and Ramiro Gonzales, scheduled for execution on Nov. 17, also are raising similar religious freedom claims, which could delay their lethal injections.

Executions in Texas have been sporadic in the last 2 years, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with just 3 lethal injections carried out last year and three so far this year. In comparison, Texas carried out 13 executions in 2018 and nine in 2019.

Texas and Missouri have been the only states to execute inmates during the pandemic, with two in Missouri. The federal government under the Trump administration did execute 13 inmates in this same period. Oklahoma and Alabama both have executions set for later this year.

The Supreme Court has dealt with the presence of spiritual advisers in the death chamber in recent years but has not made a definitive ruling. The inmates are citing the Constitution's First Amendment as well as a 2000 federal law that protects a prisoner’s religious rights.

The high court's review comes after the Texas prison system in April reversed a two-year ban on spiritual advisers in the death chamber but limited what they can do. Texas instituted the ban after the Supreme Court in 2019 halted the execution of Patrick Murphy, who had argued his religious freedom was being violated because his Buddhist spiritual adviser wasn’t allowed to accompany him. Murphy remains on death row.

The ruling in Murphy's case came after the court was criticized for declining to halt the execution of Alabama inmate Domineque Ray over his request to have his Islamic spiritual adviser in the death chamber.

In a statement filed in federal court Monday in Barbee’s case, Bobby Lumpkin, director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Correctional Institutions Division, suggested a spiritual adviser could attempt to release an inmate or pull the intravenous lines that administer the lethal injection. Lumpkin also said audible prayers could prevent prison officials from hearing whether something has gone wrong.

“Because death row houses many of (the prison system’s) most violent, unpredictable and dangerous inmates, who have nothing to lose by attempting to escape or taking and assaulting a hostage, the rule against physical touch increases the security of the institution and protects visitors and staff,” Lumpkin said.

Last month, Alabama agreed as part of a lawsuit settlement to let death row inmate Willie Smith’s pastor hold his hand and pray with him during his Oct. 21 execution.

J. Patrick Hornbeck II, a theology professor at Fordham University in New York, said the Supreme Court will look at balancing the state’s legitimate interest in security with prisoners' ability to practice their religion.

“It’s going to be a real test of the consistency that the justices bring to this sort of question to see how they deal with these sorts of religious freedom claims when they’re raised by prisoners who have been condemned to death for heinous crimes but who are looking for solace in the last moments of their life,” Hornbeck said.

Michael Mushlin, a law professor at Pace University in New York, said it’s likely the Supreme Court will issue a ruling on the two specific issues: whether spiritual advisers can pray out loud and whether they can touch an inmate. But it’s unclear if the court will issue a broader ruling that lays out everything a spiritual adviser can do in an execution chamber, he said.

(source: Associated Press)

PENNSYLVANIA:

The story of the 2nd woman executed in Pa. history shows why the death penalty must end

75 years ago this month, Corrine Sykes walked “the last mile” to Pennsylvania’s electric chair in a gray jumper and white bobby socks. She was a 22-year-old African American housemaid with a mental age of 8.

She was convicted of sinking a large kitchen knife into her new employer’s heart, then dismembering her finger in a frantic struggle to snatch a 2-karat diamond ring. Sykes naively confessed to Freeda Wodlinger’s murder: “After I stabbed her, I took the rings off her fingers. I sure like jewels.”

The crime

Harry Wodlinger played hooky from his Center City real estate office on the afternoon of Dec. 7, 1944. He bounded up the 20 steps to his house on leafy North Camac Street minutes after Sykes hurried down them.

His plan was to drop off the meat his wife wanted for dinner and grab his golf clubs. He was going to play a round with his buddy Irving Weingrad, who was waiting in the car at the curb. As he climbed the steep steps, an alarm went off in Wodlinger’s head. He spotted his front door ajar on a day when the temperatures never climbed above 46. Then he heard Susie, his mop-haired terrier, barking from the basement.

He found his well-dressed wife sprawled on the floor of the bathroom. The room was a fight scene. Along with his wife’s rings, a string of pearls, and $100 cash, the Wodlingers’ new live-in maid was missing.

Fear seeped across Philadelphia’s tonier neighborhoods, where housemaids were in high demand in the days before automatic washers, dryers, and dishwashers. The case reverberated on the city’s African American blocks, too, because domestic work was a support beam for Black neighborhoods. Unskilled men might be furloughed whenever the economy dipped, but a well-to-do wife would keep a good maid because it was too time-consuming to train a replacement.

After Sykes confessed, detectives found her bloodstained tan skirt and turquoise sweater at her boyfriend’s apartment. After 17 arrests, the boyfriend knew a thing or 2 about talking to police. He said he didn’t know Sykes had killed anyone when she changed outfits at his place. “News to me,” he said.

Sykes’ relatives said the boyfriend orchestrated the theft. If he did, he was savvy enough to send Sykes solo and leave no fingerprints of his own.

Alamena Sykes, the suspect’s mother, told reporters, “Corrine was so tender and mild, but she wasn’t very smart, and she didn’t use the brains the Lord gave her.”

Word percolated around the city that Sykes’ school principal had recommended she be institutionalized years earlier, but no institution in Philadelphia would take a Black child.

The trial

Raymond Pace Alexander, the city’s preeminent African American attorney and later its 1st Black judge, represented Sykes. He never asked for an acquittal. He asked the jury to consider Sykes’ case as a social problem and sentence her to life without parole.

During the trial, Judge Vincent Carroll interrupted Alexander’s defense, overruled his objections, and, when Alexander got the boyfriend on the stand, Carroll advised the man not to answer. The jury took 301 minutes. The verdict: guilty punishable by death. Higher courts brushed off Alexander’s appeals.

Philadelphia Tribune columnist Elijah Hodges called Alexander a “bronze Clarence Darrow.” He said he had 2 strikes against him from the start, though. First, a Black woman accused of murdering a white woman. Second, the evidence against her.

Sykes was only the 2nd woman electrocuted in Pennsylvania. 6 were sentenced to die in the chair before her, but 5 got off with life, including a white woman with intellectual disabilities. She had smothered her own baby so she could go to parties.

(source: Opinion; Kathryn Canavan, Philadelphia Inquirer)

FLORIDA:

State Attorney announces intent to seek death penalty against accused deputy killer

A Nassau County grand jury issued an indictment against Patrick McDowell, charging him with 1st-degree murder in the killing of Nassau County Sheriff Office Deputy Joshua Moyers, according to Fourth Judicial Circuit Court State Attorney Melissa Nelson said.

McDowell was also charged with 1 count of injuring or killing a police dog, and 8 counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.

“The state intends to seek the death penalty,” the news release said.

The release said McDowell will be arraigned on the new charges Thursday, Oct. 21.

McDowell, 35, is accused of shooting and killing Moyers in the early morning of Sept. 24 during a traffic stop in West Nassau County. Moyer, 29, was a 6-year veteran of the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office force.

During news conferences, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said video shows McDowell shooting Moyers below his right eye and in the back before speeding off in a minivan. Moyers died Sept. 26 from the injuries sustained in the shooting, Leeper said.

After the shooting incident, the sheriff’s office and more than 30 other law enforcement agencies engaged in a nearly 5-day, 3,000-acre manhunt in search of Moyers, who was eventually caught hiding in a soccer field concession stand’s restroom stand near a school.

“He called out that he wanted to give himself up and came out,” Leeper said after McDowell was arrested. “So, we gave him that opportunity. He came out of the bathrooms, and he got down and crawled. He crawled like a baby, like the coward he is.”

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office SWAT team made the arrest with the help of one of its K-9s. McDowell was secured with Moyers’ handcuffs.

Moyers graduated from Hilliard Middle-Senior High School in 2010. He served in the NCSO’s Explorers program prior to joining the force in 2015. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in public safety. He earned the ABCD Award for going above and beyond the call of duty during a narcotics case July 14, 2018.

In addition to the accusation he killed a deputy, officials say McDowell also shot Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office K-9 Chaos with a rifle during the manhunt. Leeper said the dog was expected to fully recover.

McDowell is a former U.S. Marine, serving from Sept. 27, 2005, to Nov. 26, 2009, and as a reservist from Nov. 27, 2009, to Sept. 21, 2013. He had previous arrests for providing a false name and stolen firearms and was previously Baker-Acted, noted to suffer from depression, seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder.

(source: Fernandina Beach News-Leader)

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The requirements for someone to face the death penalty; what happens during a capital punishment case----The man accused of killing Nassau County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Moyers could face the death penalty.

The man accused of killing a Nassau County deputy could face the death penalty. The state made that announcement Friday after a grand jury indicted Patrick McDowell for 1st-degree murder in the death of Deputy Joshua Moyers.

Two local experts weighed in on what happens in a death penalty case.

"For a capital case, or a death penalty case, it has to be something of the 1st degree, and in this case, murder in the 1st degree. It's premeditated murder," said Mark Baughman, First Coast News crime and safety expert.

McDowell is accused of shooting and killing Moyers during a September traffic stop.

"There's no specificity on time on premeditation," Baughman said. "It can be a moment in time where they make that decision that, 'I'm going to take this person's life,' and in this case, that's what McDowell did."

Baughman, who has 35 years in law enforcement, says premeditation can happen in just mere seconds.

"It has to be a thought, a period of a thought, and it can be as little as 5 seconds or 2 or 3 seconds," Baughman said. "It doesn't have to be something planned over a week or days."

Alan Chipperfield is an assistant public defender in Jacksonville and said in order to get a death sentence, the state has to prove an aggravating circumstance.

"That includes things such as having a prior conviction for a crime of violence; being in custody or under sentence during the time of the crime; a murder that's cold, calculated, and premeditation that is a higher level of premeditation," Chipperfield said.

Chipperfield said the defense can try to prove mitigating circumstances of why a defendant shouldn't get the death sentence.

"That's things like growing up in poverty, being abused as a child, being under the influence of another person, being high on drugs, being under some pressure to commit the crime," Chipperfield said.

305 inmates are on death row in Florida. 99 have been executed in the state since 1976.

McDowell remains behind bars without bond. He's scheduled to be in court on October 21 for his plea arraignment, where he is expected to enter a plea.

(source: firstcoastnews.com)

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Jury selection begins in Markeith Loyd trial for Orlando cop’s killing

During the 1st day of jury selection for Markeith Loyd’s murder trial, 119 of 240 potential jurors were excused from serving due to hardships regarding their jobs, child care, COVID-19 concerns or medical conditions, with the remaining candidates asked to return next week.

Jury selection began Friday morning at the Orange County Courthouse in the trial for Loyd, who is accused of the 2017 killing of Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton. It could take several weeks to seat a 12-member jury, plus alternates.

Loyd, who turned 46 years old Friday, faces the possibility of being sentenced to death if the jury finds him guilty of 1st-degree murder in Clayton’s death. Prosecutors say Loyd fatally shot Clayton Jan. 9, 2017, at a Walmart on Princeton Street after she tried to arrest him for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon in December 2016.

Loyd has pleaded not guilty.

Circuit Judge Leticia Marques told potential jurors that they will be sequestered in a hotel if they are picked to serve on the 12-member jury. The trial could last 2 to 3 weeks, including proceedings on Saturdays, she said.

“The reason we sequester the jury is [because] the law is very clear that jurors must make any decision in a case based only on what they hear in the courtroom,” she said. “... When jurors get information from outside the courtroom, you are violating everyone’s right to a fair and open examination of the evidence.”

The judge warned jurors against researching the case, watching any news stories about it or posting about it on social media.

“You cannot discuss this case until you are discharged as jurors,” she said. “You may not look up anything about this case. ... This is not a request. This is a court order.”

Many jurors recognized Loyd. One man said he has known Loyd and his family since childhood. Before he was dismissed, the juror said he thought he could deliver a guilty verdict but hesitated on whether he could recommend a death sentence.

“I know right from wrong, but it would pain me to do that,” he said.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, jurors wore clear masks during the process so that attorneys could see their faces. Still, one juror said she was “scared of catching COVID.”

Marques listed the precautions the courthouse has taken against the virus, including sanitizing the courtroom, but the woman said she was still worried and was ultimately dismissed.

Loyd’s attorney, Terence Lenamon, told the judge he was concerned that the first 60-person panel of potential jurors had few African Americans compared to the population demographics of Orange County.

“I have a concern that this could be over [COVID-19] issues,” he said.

Marques told him that the panels would vary. Earlier this week, she denied a request by defense attorneys to delay the trial based on concerns that the coronavirus pandemic would affect the jury pool.

Loyd was convicted of 1st-degree murder in 2019 for killing Dixon and her unborn child, but he avoided the death penalty after jurors recommended he be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)

ALABAMA----impending execution

A timeline of Willie B. Smith's case as he awaits execution on Alabama's death row

There are 168 inmates on Alabama's death row. One in particular has caught the attention of the state — and even the world.

Willie B. Smith III is currently being held in Holman Prison in Atmore for having committed murder in Jefferson County, Alabama.

After nearly 30 years, Smith is now facing what is scheduled to be his final week after he was sentenced to death in 1992.

He's being held under close custody — the most restrictive custody level to which an inmate can be assigned, according to state records.

As his case culminates in the coming week, here's a timeline following his legal trajectory as his sentence was appealed, delayed and embroiled in a series of legal debates that eventually invoked the voice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The murder of Sharma Ruth Johnson

October 1991 - Sharma Ruth Johnson, a 22-year-old woman, was abducted at gunpoint from an automatic teller site at a local bank and shot in a Jefferson County cemetery.

1992 - Smith was convicted of murder for the death of Johnson. He was 22 years old at the time of the crime.

The jury, by a vote of 10 to 2, recommended the death sentence.

A series of appeals

1997 - Smith appealed his conviction and sentence, but there were later affirmed by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

2002 - The Supreme Court ruled that executing people who are intellectually disabled violates the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Smith’s petition for a writ of certiorari to the Alabama Supreme Court was denied.

A writ of habeas corpus allows a prisoner to bring himself before the court to determine if his imprisonment or detention was lawful.

July 2, 2020 - After a few more petitions, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari, concluding Smith’s appeals.

Death penalty is affirmed, Constitutional questions rise

2018 - Alabama approves death by nitrogen hypoxia, a novel execution method.

June 26, 2018 - Attorneys met with their death-row clients at Holman Correctional Facility to discuss the opt-in method for nitrogen hypoxia.

Nov. 25, 2019 - Smith filed an action alleging that the lethal injection method of execution violated his Eighth Amendment rights, and that the defendants violated his rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Smith petitioned the court to allow him a late opt-in to death by nitrogen hypoxia. After the bill was signed into law in 2018, prisoners had 30 days to "opt in" to the new execution method.

But, it was argued that the corrections facility failed to give Smith required help under the ADA in filling out the forms. Thus, not only was there a reason he missed the deadline, but he was at a disadvantage in meeting it to begin with, the arguments claim.

Dec. 1, 2020 - The Alabama Supreme Court initially set Smith's execution date for Feb. 11 2021. Smith was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection, the default method of execution in Alabama.

Dec. 14, 2020 - Smith opened a new suit alleging that Alabama's refusal to allow his spiritual adviser from the execution chamber violated his First Amendment right to free exercise of his religious beliefs.

Jan. 27, 2021 - A motion was filed to the state Supreme Court saying Smith's execution should be stayed because spectators gathering at the execution could risk a COVID-19 “super-spreader” event.

Feb. 1, 2021 - The Alabama Supreme Court denied the above motion regarding concerns over COVID-19.

The U.S. Supreme Court weighs in

Feb. 10, 2021 - The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction requiring that Mr. Smith be allowed to have his pastor present at the time of the execution. Alabama appealed.

The appeals court also paused the execution to allow proper review the merits of Mr. Smith’s claim that his intellectual deficits made it impossible for him to meet the deadline to opt-in to death by nitrogen hypoxia.

This claim argued that the Alabama Department of Corrections violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide assistance to Mr. Smith in filling out the forms, even though prison officials were aware of his intellectual disability, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.

Feb. 11, 2021 - The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 11th Circuit's injunction that said Smith could not be executed without his spiritual adviser present.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the opinion: "So the State cannot now execute Smith without his pastor present, to ease what Smith calls the “transition between the worlds of the living and the dead.”

However, the Supreme Court lifted the disability claim stay, allowing Smith’s death sentence to stand.

The Supreme Court's decision: Alabama execution of Willie B. Smith, first scheduled by any state in 2021, cancelled after court requires pastor

Alabama's heavy-handed sentencing

By 2021, Alabama was the only state to allow juries to recommend the death penalty on less than a unanimous vote of all 12 jurors, according to The Marshall Project.

A 2015 report by the Death Penalty Information Center ranked Alabama as having the largest population of people sentenced to death per capita in the nation.

Up until 4 years ago, Alabama allowed the practice of judicial override, meaning judges could override a jury’s sentencing recommendation even when the jury had recommended a life sentence. Since 1976, Alabama judges have overridden jury verdicts 112 times, according to Equal Justice Initiative.

(source: montgomeryadvertiser.com)

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Colbert Co. District Attorney plans to seek death penalty for man suspected of killing 2, including Sheffield officer

Colbert County District Attorney Bryce Graham Jr. acknowledged his residence of job plans to pursue the loss of life penalty for Brian Lansing Martin, a man police sing shot 2 Sheffield Police officers and 1 more final Friday.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Angela Hulsey stated Martin had been issued and served with two warrants, one from the Alabama Law Enforcement Company (ALEA) and one more from Muscle Shoals Police.

The costs listed within the warrants consist of capital murder, tried murder, shooting into an occupied investigation, prison possession of a firearm, and abuse of a corpse.

“We receive every arrangement of pursuing the loss of life penalty on this capital murder case,” acknowledged Graham at a news conference Thursday.

William Mealback, Jr. became shot and killed by Martin on Oct. 1. His body became stumbled on on Avalon Ave. in Muscle Shoals later that day.

Martin later obtained into a shootout with police after a streak ended unhurried the Southgate Mall, where Sheffield Police Lt. Max Dotson became hit in his bulletproof vest twice and Sgt. Carve Risner became shot and seriously injured.

Risner died at Huntsville Sanatorium Saturday morning.

Hulsey stated Martin had a outdated conviction for manslaughter after killing Donnis “Boo Boo” Scott in 2011. He bought a ten-one year sentence, which he began serving in February 2013.

Per Hulsey, Martin became launched from his sentence on the Alabama Department of Corrections in 2016, after gaining “credit for just time, irrespective of committing a pair of infractions of Department of Corrections’ principles.”

“If Martin had been prompted to assist his whole sentence, he would receive still been in penal advanced on October 1, 2021, Hulsey concluded.

District Attorney Graham stated he hopes the Alabama Department of Corrections will be investigated completely.

(source: singingrivermediagroup.com)

MISSISSIPPI:

Race-based jury tactics at issue in appeals court arguments----Mississippi Death Penalty Case

Civil rights advocates asked federal appeals court judges Friday to revive a lawsuit they filed against a Mississippi prosecutor accused of routinely rejecting Black jurors in criminal cases simply because of their race.

District Attorney Doug Evans' jury selection tactics have been under scrutiny for years. His exclusion of Black jurors in one high-profile murder case led to the Supreme Court overturning the conviction of Curtis Flowers in 2019, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh citing a "relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of black individuals."

Friday's arguments at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans involve a lawsuit focused not on a specific case but on the overall practice of using race as a sole reason for rejecting jurors. It was filed in 2019 by leaders of the Attala County branch of the NAACP and four Mississippi voters, including Sharon Young, who was rejected as a jury candidate in one of Flowers' trials. They asked a federal judge to declare Evans' policy unconstitutional and issue to an injunction preventing Evans and his staff from making race-based jury strikes.

U.S. District Judge Debra Brown, while acknowledging that the plaintiffs' claims against Evans may have merit, dismissed the lawsuit in September 2020. She said the injunction sought would put the federal court in the improper role of conducting an "ongoing audit" of current and future state court proceedings. She also said that those who suspect a prosecutor of race-based jury exclusions have avenues to make challenges in state courts.

Christopher Kemmitt, an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, argued Friday that Evans' practice of striking jurors for racial reasons constitutes a barrier to jury service that must be addressed. He also sought to allay concerns that efforts to remedy the situation through federal courts would hamstring individual state court cases.

"We would never seek to intervene in a pending jury selection proceeding," Kemmitt told the panel of 3 appellate judges. He echoed arguments in briefs that the state-level opportunities for challenging the race-based jury selection practices are limited, particularly for prospective jurors who want the chance to serve but who are not parties to any particular criminal case.

Arguing to uphold Brown's dismissal, Scott Stewart of the Mississippi attorney general's office never directly addressed whether Evans strikes jurors because of their race, focusing instead on court precedents he said preclude a ruling against Evans in the lawsuit. The injunction sought by the NAACP, he said, is "overreaching and improper."

It was unclear when the 5th Circuit panel — judges Jennifer Walker Elrod, Leslie Southwick and Gregg Costa — will rule.

Flowers, meanwhile, has filed his own lawsuit against Evans.

Flowers was tried 6 times after being charged in the 1996 shooting deaths of 4 people at a furniture store in Winona. He has always maintained his innocence.

The 2019 Supreme Court ruling that led to his freedom came after American Public Media's "In the Dark" investigated the case. The podcast recorded jailhouse informant Odell Hallmon in 2017 and 2018 recanting his testimony that Flowers had confessed to him. The podcast also presented an analysis finding a long history of racial bias in jury selection by Evans.

In March, a judge ordered Mississippi to pay Flowers $500,000 for wrongful imprisonment — the maximum under a state law that allows up to $50,000 a year for 10 years.

(source: Daily Journal)

TENNESSEE:

Attorneys for death row inmate Pervis Payne want Shelby County District Attorney's office removed from case----Lawyers for Payne submitted a motion asking for the D.A.’s office to be disqualified due to a possible conflict of interest.

Attorneys for death row inmate Pervis Payne want a judge to remove the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office from the case.

Lawyers for Payne submitted the motion asking for the D.A.’s office to be disqualified due to a possible conflict of interest.

According to the motion, Assistant Shelby County District Attorney Stephen Jones was a Capital Case Staff Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee for 2 years – from 1996 to 1998. The 2 years before that, Jones was a law clerk for Judge Joe. B Jones in the court of Criminal Appeals.

The motion said as a Capital Case Staff Attorney, Stephen Jones provided legal guidance to judges on death row cases.

At issue, Payne’s attorneys want it investigated whether Jones was working as a Capital Case Staff Attorney when at least one post-conviction relief motion was dismissed in Payne’s case in 1996.

The motion said an email sent by Jones on September 30, 2021, confirmed another Assistant Shelby County District Attorney was not handling any of the Payne matters because of her work as a former Capital Case Staff Attorney. Lawyers said the email also said Jones was not handling any cases on which he had worked as a Capital Case Staff Attorney.

Read the full motion at: https://interactive.localmemphis.com/pdfs/motion-for-hrg-to-dq-scdag-100821.pdf

Payne was convicted in the 1987 murders of Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie Jo, in Millington.

Governor Bill Lee delayed Payne's execution in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The next hearing scheduled for Payne's case is on Dec. 13th. A state expert is scheduled that day to present an evaluation on whether Payne has an intellectual disability, which would mean he should legally be taken off death row.

(source: localmemphis.com)

MISSOURI:

Springfield priest responds as Missouri Catholic leaders ask Gov. Parson to get rid of death penalty

Following Gov. Mike Parson’s denial of clemency for 61-year-old Ernest Johnson, four Roman Catholic Dioceses in Missouri are asking the governor to do away with the death penalty.

Father Patrick Nwokoye is a priest in Springfield and Ozark. He says, when the death penalty first came about, one of the reasons was to prevent people from committing heinous crimes. The church still wants to prevent people from committing the crimes.

“If somebody commits a heinous crime, such as killing that the person be taken, that is what a lot of people were thinking back in those days, because, you know, when you think about it, I mean, there, there probably were no places where people can be detained, and all of that, and they were trying to protect others,” said Father Nwokoye.

Father Nwokoye says killing someone doesn’t bring the other person back.

”You can’t repay someone that does a heinous crime like killing. It doesn’t solve any of the problems that we are trying to solve,” said Father Nwokoye.

He does say just because you have compassion for the person who committed the crime doesn’t mean you don’t have compassion for the victims.

”I think the compassion for the family, their lives were changed. We are talking about brothers, sisters, moms, dads. They will relive this every year on the anniversary,” said Father Nwokoye.

Gov. Parson was not able to interview with KY3 regarding the matter.

(source: ky3.com)

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Bishops of Missouri: The death penalty degrades society

The Catholic bishops of Missouri have expressed disappointment and sorrow over the decision to allow the execution of Ernest Lee Johnson, aged 61, on Tuesday.

Johnson, an African American, was sentenced to death for a triple homicide during a robbery at a convenience store that occurred in 1994. He was executed by the state of Missouri on Tuesday after spending more than 25 years on death row following his conviction. Lawyers for Johnson fought to have his execution delayed or canceled to no avail.

In a statement on 6 October, the Bishops said that even though Johnson’s crimes were “heinous and deserve to be punished,” we should stop using the death penalty as a means of dealing with violent crimes.

The statement was signed by Archbishop Mitchell Rosanzki of St. Louis, Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City and Bishop Edward Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

The death penalty does not make for a safer state

“When horrendous crimes are committed, it is easy to call for vengeance and retribution,” the Bishops said. “It may seem the only fair thing to do is to take a life for a life, but the death penalty does not make Missouri a safer or more civil state.”

The Bishops recalled their words in their clemency request last month, reiterating that the death penalty “degrades us as a society and teaches our children that violence is the proper response to violence.”

When someone is executed, they insisted, “the opportunity for them to undergo a conversion and repent prior to their final judgment may be lost". "That important time for grace to work in a person’s heart is taken away.”

Condolences to victims

The Bishops went on to express their condolences with the families of the victims of the murders committed by Johnson. They highlighted that the lives of Mary Bratcher, Mabel Scrubbs and Fred Jones “deserve honor and remembrance.” They also prayed for the comfort of their loved ones as they are forced to relive the trauma and pain of these crimes through this execution.

The Bishops said that it is their prayer that the people of Missouri “look for ways to address these crimes without resorting to the death penalty.” They proposed that life without parole, for example, is a severe punishment that isolates offending individuals from society.

They also called on Catholics and people of good will to join in seeking alternatives to the death penalty for Missouri’s most violent criminals because “even those who commit the most offensive acts do not lose their human dignity before God.”

Clemency plea

On October 1, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, sent a letter on behalf of Pope Francis to the governor of Missouri, Michael Parson, asking him to stop the execution. The letter was then circulated on Twitter by Sister Helen Prejean, a U.S. religious of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph who, for nearly three decades, has been fighting for an end to capital punishment. In the letter, the Archbishop called for a focus on “Johnson’s humanity and the sanctity of all human life.”

(source: vaticannews.va)

OKLAHOMA:

40 days to save a life: The race to spare Julius Jones from the death chamber----Julius Jones has been fighting to leave Oklahoma’s death row for 20 years, sentenced to die for a crime he—and a growing body of evidence—says he didn’t commit. This October, he has one last chance to plead his case before his execution date, Josh Marcus writes

The 1999 murder of Paul Howell was senseless and sensational. The killing, in front of his two young daughters, devastated his family and stunned the surrounding community. Hundreds of officers and heavily armed SWAT troops fanned out across the Oklahoma City suburbs, searching for two Black teenagers accused of killing the prosperous white businessman during a carjacking.

Once police caught a suspect, 19-year-old Julius Jones, the state’s most prominent prosecutor and newspaper editorial board both called for the death penalty in a manner of days, well before all the facts had been established.

Following a front page trial the year later, they got their wish. Jones was sentenced to death. The system carried out justice as it was then conceived. The sentence was swift, and the most severe imaginable.

But despite the spotlight on the case, there’s another side to this story that has only recently come to light. Julius Jones has always insisted that he is innocent, the victim of a frantic police investigation and a perfect storm of prosecutorial vengeance. Starting from the moment he was arrested, he has never been able to stand up in court and share his full side of the story—not during his fevered trial, not during decades of fruitless appeals that followed. He has remained on Oklahoma’s death row for over 20 years, a man alive but largely consigned to the silence of the grave. Until now.

After years of work by family, local activists, public defenders, and, more recently, Hollywood heavyweights like the actress Viola Davis and reality star Kim Kardashian West, Jones will have one last shot at the justice he says is 20 years delayed. His legal appeals have been exhausted, but on 26 October, Jones, now 41 years old, having spent more time living on death row than off it, will go before Oklahoma officials to argue for his life during a clemency hearing. If Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt is moved by what he hears, Jones could be taken off death row and given a life sentence instead, opening up the possibility of parole and eventually walking free. If Mr Stitt is not convinced, Jones’ execution date is already set for 18 November.

Jones was sent to death during the height of the “Tough on Crime” era. His fate begs the question: after years of civil rights activism, how much has the criminal justice system, and America at large, really changed?

Boy Scouts and ‘superpredators’

Paul Howell, a 45-year-old insurance executive, was shot and killed in his parents’ driveway on 28 July, 1999. His sister, Megan Tobey, was the only eye witness. She said the shooter was a young Black man wearing a red bandana over his face, who had a few inches of hair peeking out from under a skull cap.

Even by the standards of the time, an era that birthed the ludicrous “superpredator” stereotype of murderous Black teens, Julius Jones would seem an unlikely candidate as the face concealed underneath that mask.

(The Howell family did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

“Sometimes I think of him being a little Boy Scout or something,” Madeline Davis-Jones, Julius’s mother, told The Independent. Julius was active in church, in sports, in helping kids around the neighbourhood with their homework. “He liked helping people, I guess that’s one of his problems.”

His younger sister, Antoinette Jones, remembered fondly how Julius once took her to a fair where he promised to let her go hang out with her friends, only to notice him secretly trailing after her from a distance to make sure she was safe.

Julius was one of only two Black males to graduate in the top 10 percent of his class at Oklahoma City’s John Marshall High School. At the time of the Paul Howell murder, he was at the University of Oklahoma on an academic scholarship.

He was one of the kids who “made it,” but the place he made it out of was pretty nice, too. According to Madeline, a veteran schoolteacher, it was the kind of middle-class, multi-racial community where people know each other and got along, and all the parents seemed to work as a collective, fathers looking after each other’s kids on sports teams and families having each other over for picnics.

“We just had a good time,” she said. “You don’t look at colour, but it was very diverse.”

When he went off to college, however, Julius began to drift. The summer after his 1st year, in 1999 he began committing petty crimes.

“Being young, just wanting to have money, I got into shoplifting. I stole pagers. I stole things that I could sell,” he said from a jailhouse phone in the 2018 ABC documentary series The Last Defense, which detailed his case. “Wrong is wrong. I shouldn’t have done it. And I’m not trying to hide from anybody that I broke the law, because I have. But just because I broke the law does not make me a murderer.”

That summer, he reconnected with an acquaintance named Chris Jordan. They’d known each other from school and basketball, but Jordan never graduated and became affiliated with gang members, while Julius went off to university. Jordan, who had a car, would give Julius rides, and Julius had talked about taking his college entrance ACT test for him in exchange for money. He liked helping people, after all, and he needed the money, too.

Their paths would soon diverge once again: Chris would take a deal from prosecutors to avoid the death penalty in the Howell shooting and testify against

Julius, and his old basketball buddy would head to death row.

The Red Bandanna

2 days after Paul Howell was killed, police located his GMC Suburban in a parking lot near a known chop shop, which dismantled cars of dubious origin and sold them for parts. The owner of the shop, Kermit Lottie, and Ladell King, known to police as a prolific dealer in stolen cars, were both professional informants for Oklahoma police. They traded information with officers in lenient charges or a tacit license to operate unimpeded.

Mr King claimed, as did his associate Chris Jordan, that Julius had confessed to killing Mr Howell and tried to sell his Suburban to Mr Lottie, who declined to buy the vehicle. The Independent was unable to locate Mr King for comment, including through public records searches.

Julius, meanwhile, has said he was with his family at home during the murder, eating spaghetti and playing the board game “Monopoly.”

“This is a life on the line,” his sister Antoinette told The Independent. “It’s an innocent life on the line.”

After being arrested, Julius countered that Chris Jordan had in fact confessed the murder to him after the fact, which Mr Jordan denied.

There had been a rapidly vanishing window, as police searched for a suspect, where Julius could have reached out and given his version of events. However, in the moment, as a manhunt stormed across the suburbs for Mr Howell’s killer, Julius was too afraid to act. Oklahoma, to this day, has the highest Black incarceration rate in the country, and Julius didn’t trust the system to protect him if he volunteered himself.

“You have to understand that the environment I grew up around, the people I grew up in around, you were not supposed to talk to the police,” Julius told the ABC documentary crew. “Bad things could happen to you or your family.”

Those bad things would find him and his family anyway.

“From my point of view, it was like half and half. There were some good cops and some bad cops,” Antoinette remembers of the area. “There were a lot of cops in the early ‘90s that were hellbent on taking young Black men, adding cases to them once they’ve been put in the system.”

Still, in her tight-knit neighbourhood, and in her own family, she knew plenty of law enforcement officers, who would be there at local sports games and other community events.

“I was under the understanding that the police were going to do their job and their job was to make sure that people were safe,” she continued. “I had never had really bad encounters with the police until the evening where they came to my house and they pulled a gun on me for the 1st time.”

Once police had Julius’s name, they began charging towards a resolution. Officers surrounded the Jones family home, hauling out Julius’s relatives at gunpoint and tearing through the house. Inside, in a crawl space, they found a gun matching the murder weapon, wrapped in a red bandanna.

It didn’t seem to matter that days before the murder, Julius had been photographed, during a mugshot for doing donuts in an empty parking lot, with buzzed short hair, not the kind of cornrows Chris Jordan had at the time, that would have stuck out from under a skull cap. It didn’t seem to matter that Julius’s prints weren’t found in the car. It didn’t seem to matter that the night after the murder, Chris Jordan asked to sleep over at the Jones house for the first time, where he slept in a bedroom near where the murder weapon was found, and that Julius’s family saw him seeming to skulk around upstairs. It didn’t matter that investigators’ case-making information came from a group of men with a vested interest, and an easy avenue, of avoiding police scrutiny.

Mr Jordan, through his attorney Billy Bock, denied any sort of framing took place. “It didn’t happen,” Mr Bock told The Independent. “Certainly, from my client’s position, it’s another way to spin the story to try to deflect responsibility. I completely understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. I just wish it was based on fact.”

Whoever placed the gun in the red bandanna and stashed it at the house, once it was found, police had a more-than-plausible conviction. They had their man. They weren’t going to turn back.

The community wanted resolution, and the prosecutors who depended on their votes each election wanted death.

‘This is still a nice town’

To understand the crackling current of fear that ran through the Julius Jones case, you have to understand Edmond, Oklahoma, the suburb where the killing took place, and the swaggering prosecutors who sought to avenge it.

It was one of numerous similar suburbs across the country, where numerous people moved en masse as cities were legally mandated to become racially integrated following the mid-century victories of the civil rights movement. Its population was wealthy, and more than 85 per cent white. The killing touched off an existential panic about whether the tacit promise of a place like Edmond was still intact. News coverage at the time played up the seeming contrast between small-town tranquility and city grit as all but a clash of civilisations, describing how gang elements may have “invaded the secluded area.”

“It’s senseless,” one resident told a local paper. “Why in my neighbourhood?”

After Julius and Chris were arrested, an Edmond police officer told local TV news, “This is still a nice town. This is still a safe place. That is why we so aggressively sought these individuals out.”

Back in Oklahoma City, Julius’ neighbourhood was split. Some began to ignore the Jones family. Others wrote letters of support and helped the family repair the damage police had done to their home during the search. Still others were totally aware of what happened even years later, as this all occurred before the world of Google and 24/7 news on social media.

“Among the community and among the teachers, I can only think of one parent who I’ve known over the years who thought Julius was guilty,” said John Thompson, who taught both boys at John Marshall High School.

But the man charged with prosecuting the case, Robert “Cowboy” Macy, had no such hangups about executing Julius Jones. Mr Macy, now deceased, was one of the five most prolific users of the death penalty in the country during his time as Oklahoma County District Attorney, according to an analysis from the Death Penalty Information Center. The self-styled cowboy wore boots and an old-fashioned string tie, and kept playing cards on his desk featuring his picture, on horseback, and factoids touting he was that the “nation’s leading death penalty prosecutor.” He also had a record of flagrant misconduct. Courts reversed nearly half of his death sentences for prosecutorial or policing errors. He once reportedly pushed an opposing attorney during a trial, and was ejected from a courtroom for reaching for a gun after a jury chose to acquit his targets.

5 days after the murder, Mr Macy, who commanded an outsized presence in the local media, said Julius deserved to die. A day later, the state’s largest newspaper endorsed his decision.

Both executions themselves and public support for them peaked in the late 1990s. Julius Jones, then, was accused of the worst possible crime, at the worst possible time, with the worst possible prosecutor if he wanted to stay alive. The finer-point questions around the police investigation, or the real Julius, were beside the point now. A Black teen had killed a white man, and that was enough.

“You’ve got such a classic story. A John Marshall honors student being charged with this murder in suburban Edmond,” Mr Thompson, the teacher, said. “The message behind this was, you were right to leave Oklahoma City and go to Edmond. Because look, even the best of ‘em, can commit a crime.”

Over the years, Mr Thompson has researched to write a history of policing in the area at the time of the Julius Jones case. He heard that internally, one of the mottos among the prosecutors was that “every inmate at Big Max [the nickname for a high-security Oklahoma prison] is guilty of the crime he was duly convicted of, or something else.”

‘I didn’t see justice’

Julius Jones’ trial proved even more calamitous than the police investigation that preceded it. His original public defender, an experienced trial attorney, died before the case entered the courtroom. Instead, a pair of inexperienced lawyers, one fresh out of law school and another who had never handled a death penalty trial, took over the case.

Kermit Lottie, Ladell King, and Chris Jordan all took explicit pleas or expected likely legal benefits to testify to the police’s version of events. Jordan’s deal was enough to avoid the death penalty and instead get a 30-year sentence. The jury was not made aware that Lottie and King had previously been police informants. Julius’ original public defender had asked for all evidence of any agreements between prosecutors and their witnesses for special treatment in this or other cases.

Mr Lottie, in an interview with The Independent, denied being a police informant or contributing to Julius Jones’s eventual death sentence.

“I never testified against that guy,” Mr Lottie said. “I never said a bad word against that guy ever. I never said nothing to prosecutors. I never said nothing. I don’t know the guy. I never met him.”

Court records reveal that Mr Lottie had previously served as a confidential informant in 1995, and sent a praise-filled letter to prosecutor Sandra Howell-Elliot, who was prosecuting Julius at the time, describing how he had helped other Oklahoma officials “get some big time evidence” in other cases, and asked for “a little help myself.”

Mr Lottie was facing federal drug charges at the time, and court records remain sealed regarding what went into his eventual sentence, which came down three days after Julius was sentenced to death. Edmond police asked federal officials for leniency in the sentencing due to Lottie’s status as a “key witness” against Julius.

Since then, he said people have shot at him and threatened his children because of his involvement in the case.

“I’m walking around with my back against the wall,” he said. “I’ve got family here. They threatened my kids and everything.”

Elsewhere, the green defense attorneys missed easy avenues that would’ve bolstered their case. They didn’t locate the mugshot that would’ve shown Julius’s hair wouldn’t have stuck out under a skull cap. They didn’t call anyone in the Jones family onto the stand, not even Julius himself. They believed, erroneously, that a jailhouse letter Julius had written to a girlfriend contradicted his alibi.

Instead, they rested their defense without offering one, and didn’t do much to impugn the original police testimony of Mr Jordan, which even the detectives who interviewed him acknowledged was erratic—contradicting itself on key facts like whether he heard gunshots, saw Mr Howell get killed, touched the gun in question, or slept at Julius’ house.

Why the death penalty isn't working for America

“What I saw in the courtroom, I didn’t see justice. I saw somebody wanting to get a win, and not the truth,” Antoinette said of the experience. The mismatch between the fierce confidence of the prosecutors, and their public defenders, was crushing.

David McKenzie, one of Mr Jones’s trial lawyers, did not respond to a request for comment, but has publicly acknowledged problems with the defense

The 12-person jury, 11 of whom were white, voted unanimously for the death penalty. In 2017, one of the jurors disclosed publicly that a counterpart said the trial was a “waste of time” and that police should “just take the n****r out and shoot him behind the jail.” The comments were reported to the judge at the time, but the juror remained on the panel, and Julius’s fate seemed sealed.

“It’s this never-ending nightmare’

Chris Jordan was released from prison early in 2014 and still lives in Oklahoma, where he lives largely anonymously and works as a labourer. He has written letters of apology to the Howell family for the role he pled guilty to, as the driver, in the carjacking that caused Paul Howell’s death. When he does communicate with the public, it goes through his father, then through his lawyer.

Julius Jones, meanwhile, has been waging a two-decade campaign to get his case reheard. Various state and federal appeals, claiming ineffective counsel and a biased jury, have all been shot down. Unlike most places, Oklahoma has a condensed appeals system where both fact-finding and procedural review processes occur essentially simultaneously. It’s vexingly difficult for those who felt wrongly convicted to both identify problems with their case and prove they would’ve matter at the same time. For most death row defendants, nearly all of whom are poor, there usually isn’t the money or the access for this kind of high-powered legal access. A bipartisan 2017 report from the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission found that this arrangement “increases the risk that constitutional concerns,” like prosecutors withholding potentially exculpatory evidence, “will go uncorrected.”

A federal law, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, further limited Julius’ options, since it requires federal appeals courts to give states great deference on capital cases. The law was inspired by the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombings and concerns bomber Timothy McVeigh would evade capital punishment. McVeigh was later put to death, following a series of state and federal cases, including one led by a charismatic Oklahoma prosecutor named Robert “Cowboy” Macy.

Most significantly, 3 different men—one of whom was facing a life sentence and another sentenced to death—none of whom were offered incentives or knew Julius Jones—came forward and said Chris Jordan had confessed to the Howell murder in jail, which his lawyers deny.

The fact that none of these questions were enough to get Julius another shot at justice weighed heavily on his family.

“It’s like this never-ending nightmare that you can’t wake up from,” Antoinette said. “The reality that he hasn’t come home yet, sometimes it’s a little suffocating. It’s almost like being buried in a cement tomb. You can’t breathe but you need to survive. You wake up and you still realize I’m still in this hell.”

Sometimes, she gets anxious in her day-to-day life, trying to remember every detail so she can explain them to Julius during visits. She prays to God he can experience fresh air again before he dies.

The reality that that might never happen began to set it for everyone as each successive appeal flamed out. Julius tried to keep strong and keep praying, but occasionally let down his nurturing demeanour and revealed to his family he was struggling. He spends 23 hours a day in his cell, and hasn’t hugged his mom since he was 19.

“He was resigned to being on death row, no one would ever know his story,” said Cece Jones-Davis, a leader of the growing Justice For Julius movement. “He was ready to be executed so that his family could be free.”

The exoneration will be televised

His death date was even scheduled, before a series of botched executions in Oklahoma inspired a temporary moratorium on the practice in 2015. That was the first of many fortuitous developments that revived the Jones family’s hopes.

In 2016, a group of federal public defenders took over his case and began charging hard for any remaining appeals. Not long after, a film crew from ABC began producing The Last Defense, a true crime series about Julius and other cases of potential wrongful conviction, chosen from among hundreds of potential stories.

More so than any legal process, the documentary, produced by actress Viola Davis and shown to millions, is what brought Julius’s case back to life, and amplified his case into a cause.

“Julius would still be sitting in the dark and nobody would know his name,” Ms Davis, an Oklahoma-based activist, said of the show’s impact. “Community is stronger than these systems that we’re fighting. These systems are monstrous, don’t get me wrong, but when people see that something is wrong and we want to do something about it, we’re ready to commit, that’s a force, that’s really powerful.”

Late night TV host James Corden was one of a number of high-profile Hollywood stars to embrace Julius Jones’s story.

Soon celebrities like Kim Kardashian, NBA star Blake Griffin, and late night TV host James Corden were championing the burgeoning Justice for Julius campaign.

Neighbours began apologizing to the Jones family for not sticking by them after seeing the ABC show. It was the 1st time many in the community learned about what happened to Julius at all. Some people thought he had gone overseas to play basketball.

A Change.org petition on behalf of Julius has more than 6.3 million signatures, and news organisations began highlighting the case once again. It was the near exact inverse of how he got convicted in the first place: the public and media were now clamouring for careful appeal, not hard justice.

In 2019, Julius’ public defenders filed a clemency petition with the state. Soon after, his campaign got another boost from Represent Justice, an advocacy group created along with the release of the 2019 film Just Mercy, which tells the story of legendary legal advocate and Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson. It was becoming clear that the power of narrative was the final missing element, maybe the only thing possible, that could’ve pulled Julius out of his slow-moving, all-obliterating legal limbo.

“One of the things that we’ve realised is that people are connecting to stories more than they are to facts and statistics,” Represent Justice CEO Daniel Forkkio told The Independent. “They are empathetic and motivated and energized around awareness of a story in the way they’re not around other things.”

Wrongful conviction, and the innumerable barriers young Black men face in getting proper representation, were becoming nationwide topics of conversation. It seemed, finally, the public conversation around criminal justice, and what that meant as applied people like Julius, had turned away from “superpredators” and back to something like human decency.

On 13 September, 2021, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended 3-1 that the governor commute Julius’ sentence, the first time a commutation was urged for a death row inmate in state history.

“Personally, I believe in death penalty cases there should be no doubts,” board chairman Adam Luck said of the decision. “And put simply, I have doubts about this case.”

But the system, and many of the same individuals that sought death for Julius, weren’t about to throw away their hard-fought conviction. A week later, he was given his execution date.

Justice for Paul Howell

The Howell family, which did not respond to requests to participate in this story, has largely kept a low profile since Paul’s murder. They maintained that Julius was the correctly identified killer, but eschewed the spotlight.

As the Justice for Julius movement began gaining steam, they launched a campaign of their own, called Justice for Paul Howell in the news and on social media. Now, the battle over the case had moved into the realm of public relations, with slick websites aiming to take apart the other side’s points before the public jury. The Howell family felt that high-profile celebrity figures and overweening national news outlets had hijacked their story to advance a political agenda. They began to feel, as Julius had felt before them, that the system and the media were arrayed against them. This is despite the fact that they, in the legal sense of the word, had continued to win, and their position was supported by current and former officials. Leaders like the current Oklahoma Attorney General and his predecessor argued that after numerous failed appeals, before more than 10 appellate judges, and a 2018 DNA test on the red bandanna that was a disputed match to Julius Jones, all this should be enough to let this case—and the Howell family—finally rest.

“These celebrities and influencers don’t bother to reach out to us about it. I think the thing that is most frustrating about all this is you influence your followers. If you’re a celebrity, an influencer, an athlete, you have a lot of followers who look up to you,” Rachel Howell, Paul’s daughter, told Oklahoma’s KFOR, the day Julius was recommended for commutation. “I think the only thing I want these celebrities to know is to think about the victim’s family. Take the time to at least look at both sides. You don’t have all the information.”

“This is David versus Goliath,” Clayton Howell, Paul Howell’s nephew, added.

They said they were “devastated” by the commutation recommendation, calling the legal process “in no way fair.”

Sandra Howell-Elliot, one of the prosecutors who convicted Julius, took the rare step of coming out of retirement to argue at the commutation hearing that he still deserved the death penalty. She did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

Jerry Bass, the judge who presided over the original trial, began posting on Facebook in support of the execution.

David Prater, the current district attorney, has sought to remove two members of the Pardon and Parole Board, arguing their criminal justice reform work makes them biased, after a similar request was denied at the state Supreme Court earlier this year. He did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent. All eyes are now on Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt, who has said he’ll make his decision after the hearing later this month.

The case has arrived at the stage now, in other words, where no one—not the victim’s family, nor the accused, nor the officials who sentenced him to death—feels like the process is working as it should. But, after more than 20 years, a resolution is coming soon, one way or another.

‘Not everybody gets that chance’

If Julius does get executed, Ms Davis-Jones thinks we’ll look back at it one day like the 2020 murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, or the widespread lynchings of Black men before that, as a travesty of historic proportions.

“We are at risk of revisiting the kind of shame that happened,” she said. “People should care because we’re living in the era of George Floyd. We saw in horror what happened to that man, how the system had its knee on George Floyd’s neck. We see now that the system has its knee on another man’s neck.”

If Julius lives, it will mark the ascendance of a new kind of coalition, where Black activists and entertainers, along with the legal advocacy establishment and certain parts of the liberal media, were able to marshal enough power to pull a life back out of the execution chamber. Nearly one in nine people sent to death row were later shown to be innocent, and people in North America, disproportionately people of colour, have been executed for capital crimes since 1608. Saving even one Black life from execution, then, is historically significant.

Of course, the Jones family won’t know peace until Julius is off death row, but they are grateful, after twenty years of fighting, that the world finally wants to hear what Julius has to say.

“That’s what we’ve been fighting for the whole time,” Antoinette said. “For him to be able to speak on his own behalf...Not everybody gets that chance.”

What remains to be seen is whether enough time has gone by that the right people will listen.

(source: The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage----independent.co.uk)

KANSAS:

The death penalty is a failed experiment, and we should get rid of it immediately

Hundreds of KU students, faculty and community members attended Ibram Kendi’s Thursday talk at the Lied Center where he spoke about systemic racism in our statewide and nationwide policies. There is plenty we can do to dismantle it, and that begins with abolishing the death penalty.

“There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy,” Kendi says in his book, How to Be an Antiracist. “Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups.”

The death penalty, legal in 27 states, falls squarely within the former.

Since 1989, DNA evidence exonerated 375 wrongly convicted people, 69% of them belonging to minority groups. A 2006 study revealed that, as the defendant’s conformity with Black stereotypes increased, so did the probability of receiving a death penalty.

This racial disparity does not stop at crime; it extends to jury selection. According to a 2001 study, 25% of juries in death penalty cases lacked Black jurors, and 70% had 2 or fewer. Further, from 1977 to 2003, at least 20% of Black people executed were convicted by all-white juries.

Legally, the equal protection clause in the 14th amendment should prohibit states from implementing the death penalty when evidence of racial disparities exists.

Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

McCleskey v. Kemp (1987) rejected Georgia’s racial bias statistics, with Justice Lewis Powell affirming that a conscious discriminatory bias must accompany a discriminatory effect. In her book, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander writes that the ruling effectively sanctified the judiciary from racial bias claims.

Many support the death penalty because of its longstanding tradition in American history. They are right; since 1700, more than 15,000 executions occurred. But, that does not mean that it should stay this way — or that it is constitutional.

The Eighth Amendment proclaims, “Nor cruel and unusual punishments [be] afflicted.” For originalists, the clause upholds capital punishment because the punishment coexisted with the ratification of the amendment.

Still, when jurisprudence belies our foundational values — justice, liberty and democracy — it is imperative to reexamine our jurisprudence.

The possibility of enduring the death penalty depends on the court that has jurisdiction. The defendant’s race, wealth, and gender also influence the sentence.

In Glossip v. Gross(2015), Dr. David Lubarsky’s testimony affirms that midazolam, a sedative that states continue to use, does not render the procedure painless. The fear of pain is not unfounded; lethal injections are the most mishandled means of delivering the death penalty, with 7.12% of procedures botched.

The death row phenomenon further substantiates the practice’s cruelty. Nationally, the average time between sentencing and execution is 18.7 years, during which time an individual suffers perpetual uncertainty and solitary confinement.

These inhumane conditions lead to delusions, suicidal ideation and insanity, which transcends the prescribed severity of the death penalty and breaches one’s right to procedural due process within a reasonable time.

The biggest blow to originalists is the word “unusual.” When a