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

OCTOBER 27, 2021:

TEXAS:

Supreme Court Moves Arguments in Death Penalty Cases to Hear Texas Abortion Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court has pushed back arguments in 3 death-penalty cases so it can expedite consideration of two cases involving Texas’ restrictive abortion statute. To hear argument in United States v. Texas and Whole Women’s Health v. Jackson on November 1, 2021, the court rescheduled argument in Ramirez (John) v. Collier and Shinn v. Ramirez (David) and Jones. The Court will now hear argument in Ramirez v. Collier on November 9, 2021, and in Shinn v. Ramirez and Jones on December 8, 2021.

In Ramirez v. Collier, the Court will review Texas death-row prisoner John Henry Ramirez’s claim that the state’s refusal to allow his pastor to “lay hands” on him or pray audibly during his execution violates the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and his First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. The Court stayed Ramirez’s execution on the night of September 8, 2021, 3 hours after Ramirez had been scheduled to be put to death. Ramirez had requested that his pastor be allowed to accompany him into the execution chamber, lay hands on him to administer religious rites, and pray with him out loud. Texas, which had previously permitted prison chaplains to minister to condemned prisoners in the execution chamber, had said that Ramirez’s pastor could be admitted into the execution chamber but could neither speak nor touch Ramirez once inside the chamber.

RLIUPA provides that “No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution … unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person— (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

“So long as the death penalty is constitutional, states have a compelling interest in carrying the executions out,” Death Penalty Information Center executive director Robert Dunham told The American Independent. “At some point, the right to exercise religion is overcome by the states’ interest in carrying out the execution. The question that the Supreme Court has the opportunity to answer is, what’s that point?”

In Shinn v. Ramirez and Jones, the Supreme Court will consider Arizona prosecutors’ challenge to federal appellate court rulings that allowed death-row prisoners to present the federal court with evidence of trial counsel’s ineffectiveness that their state post-conviction lawyers had failed to first present to the state courts. As a general rule, federal habeas corpus law requires a state prisoner to present an issue to the state courts as a precondition to receiving review of that claim in federal court. However, in a 7-2 decision in 2012 in Martinez v. Ryan — another Arizona death penalty case — created a limited exception when a state prisoner is provided ineffective representation both at trial and in state post-conviction proceedings and, because of the post-conviction lawyer’s failures, the prisoner was denied the chance to challenge his or her trial counsel’s ineffectiveness.

Arizona death-row prisoners Barry Jones and David Ramirez both allege that the state provided them ineffective representation throughout the trial and state post-conviction process. As a result, they assert, they were denied the opportunity to adequately present critical legal issues: Jones’ lawyers’ failure to investigate and present evidence of innocence and Ramirez’s lawyers’ failure to investigate and present evidence of intellectual disability and other mental health problems. Arizona argues that Jones and Ramirez may raise the issue of their trial counsel’s ineffectiveness but should be limited to the evidence that was before the state court. Legal scholars argue that Arizona’s argument would effectively gut Martinez and reward states for providing systemically inadequate representation.

Ramirez v. Collier and Shinn v. Ramirez and Jones are 2 of 3 death-penalty arguments at the Court this term. The 3rd, United States v. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was argued on October 13, 2021.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

FLORIDA:

More than 7 decades later, State Attorney files motion to drop charges against Groveland Four

A state attorney has filed a motion to finally clear the names of the Groveland Four, 4 Black men who evidence strongly suggests were falsely accused of raping a white woman 7 decades ago.

The men, Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas were indicted in 1949. None will be present to see their names cleared. They are all dead now. One was killed by a posse and another by a sheriff.

The motion by 5th Circuit State Attorney Bill Gladson would set aside guilty verdicts against Greenlee and Irving and dismiss the indictments against Shepherd and Thomas, according to a press release from Gladson’s office. A motion filed Monday includes new evidence that points to their innocence.

“Even a casual review of the record reveals that these 4 men were deprived of the fundamental due process rights that are afforded to all Americans,” Gladson wrote in his motion.

Author Gilbert King, who won the 2013 Pulitzer prize for nonfiction for his book “Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America” said in a phone interview Monday that he was thrilled to see the motion.

“The final stage was to get the judicial side to weigh in,” King said. “and so that was the thing that I was most looking forward to because that would address the actual issue of guilt and innocence, because as you know you can still pardon guilty people, but the families were really calling for an exoneration.”

The motion will be heard by Lake County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Heidi Davis. A date has not been set yet.

Thomas was shot and killed on July 26, 1949, by members of a posse.

The other three men went on trial and were convicted. At the time, rape was punishable by death unless the jury returned a recommendation of mercy. The men had not raped anyone, though.

Greenlee, who was only 16 at the time he was accused, received a recommendation of mercy from the jury and was sentenced to life. Greenlee reportedly did not appeal because had he won a retrial and been convicted, he would have been exposed to the death penalty, according to a footnote in the motion.

Irvin and Shepherd were sentenced to death but successfully appealed, and the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately vacated their convictions and ordered new trials.

Irvin and Shepherd were indicted again in 1951. Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall was transporting Shepherd and Irvin to their arraignment when the sheriff shot and killed Shepherd and wounded Irvin.

Irvin was convicted and again sentenced to death. That sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1955. Irvin was released on parole in 1968 and died the next year.

Greenlee was granted parole in 1962 and died in 2012.

Decades later, justice comes for the Groveland Four

Sheriff McCall was ultimately indicted for murder in an unrelated case involving the death of an inmate at the Lake County jail, but he was not convicted, King said.

But the sheriff was brought to justice in the press by journalist Mabel Norris Reese who was relentless in her writings about McCall. Her house was bombed, her dog poisoned and advertisers at her paper were threatened, King said. She was ultimately forced out of Lake County.

Reese went to work at The Daytona Beach News-Journal where she kept writing about McCall.

“And she stayed on top of Willis McCall and kept writing about him and kept the heat on him, even from Daytona Beach,” King said. “So she was a real agitator and a real courageous journalist. I think she was one of the ones that brought Willis McCall down because she never stopped writing about him.”

A bust of Reese was unveiled in September in Mount Dora in honor of her crusading efforts.

Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in December 2018 ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review the 1949 case of the Groveland Four. Gov. Ron DeSantis pardoned the Groveland Four on Jan. 11, 2019.

In July 2021, the FDLE submitted its investigation to Gladson of the 5th Circuit, which includes Lake County. Gladson was elected in November and took office in January.

In a strongly worded motion, Gladson wrote that the Groveland Four were the victims of a grave injustice.

“The evidence strongly suggests that a sheriff, a judge, and prosecutor all but guaranteed guilty verdicts in this case," the motion states. "These officials, disguised as keepers of the peace and masquerading as ministers of justice, disregarded their oaths, and set in motion a series of events that forever destroyed these men, their families, and a community.”

According to Gladson's motion, the indictments against Thomas and Shepherd, who were both killed, were never dismissed. Gladson's motion now seeks to dismiss those indictments.

Greenlee’s daughter, Carol Greenlee, was also pleased to see the motion, according to a press release from the State Attorney’s Office.

“My family and I are deeply grateful to State Attorney Bill Gladson and his team for their dedicated efforts to review the case and right the wrongs committed against the Groveland Four more than 7 decades ago,” according to Carol Greenlee’s statement in the release.

“While we are thankful the Florida legislature apologized and the Board of Executive Clemency granted pardons, full justice depends on action from the judicial branch. I hope this motion will result in that full justice for my father Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas.” (source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)

OKLAHOMA:

Hearing delayed for Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones

A clemency hearing for Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones scheduled for Tuesday has been delayed for a week while his legal challenge is pending in federal court.

The 5-member Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is now set to hear Jones’ request for clemency next Tuesday while an appeal by death row inmates is pending in federal court.

Jones and 5 other death row inmates are seeking to be reinstated into a federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol. A federal district judge on Monday rejected the inmates’ request, and their attorneys immediately appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Jones, 41, maintains he is innocent of the 1999 shooting death of Edmond businessman Paul Howell and that he was framed by the actual killer, a high school friend and former co-defendant who was a key witness against him.

Another clemency hearing that was scheduled Wednesday for Bigler J. “Bud” Stouffer II, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the shooting death of woman in 1995, also was delayed, according to Pardon and Parole Board Director Tom Bates.

Stouffer is not part of the federal litigation, but has a motion pending to stay his execution before a federal judge that could be subject to appeal, Bates said.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced Tuesday that it is planning to move forward with Thursday’s execution of John Marion Grant, 60, who also is seeking to be reinstated to the federal lawsuit.

(source: Associated Press)

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Lawyer Explains What Is Next For Oklahoma Death Row InmatesLawyer Explains What Is Next For Oklahoma Death Row Inmates

An attorney for 1 of the 5 Oklahoma prisoners on death row is sitting down with us to explain what will happen to John Grant, and the 4 other men scheduled to be executed.

This comes after the U.S. District Court of Western District of Oklahoma denied a stay of execution for the men. Their attorneys have filed appeals with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The state filed their response to the appeal before the deadline on Tuesday.

After that, it's up to the appeals court to decide whether or not John Grant will be executed in less than 48 hours.

"The judges will review the papers filed by the state, our stay application and will issue a decision," said Dale Baich, one of attorneys representing the prisoners. "We also asked for expedited briefing on our appeal."

If the stay is granted, both sides will have to present their case on a faster than normal schedule. Grant's execution is set for 4 p.m. Thursday.

He and the 4 others -- Julius Jones, Donald Grant, Gilbert Postelle and Wade Lay -- were removed from a lawsuit that challenged the state's execution protocols.

"The district court noted that there are some concerns about the drug combination the state of Oklahoma intends to use," Baich said. "So this issue is far from resolved. The only question is, will those prisoners get the benefit of any finding on the constitutionality of the Oklahoma protocol?"

The 26-page appeal cites those issues and goes so far as to call the five men "guinea pigs whose executions would be test cases assessing the State’s ability to conduct constitutional executions," as Grant will be the first person to be executed in nearly 7 years.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow said the following statement:

"They have addressed the concerns about carrying out the death penalty and is prepared to follow the will of the people of Oklahoma expressed throughout the different steps of the legal processes.

"The Department of Corrections has addressed concerns regarding carrying out the death penalty and is prepared to follow the will of the people of Oklahoma, as expressed in state statute, and the orders of the courts by carrying out the execution of inmates sentenced to death by a jury of their peers."

The DOC also emphasized it has no role in those legal processes.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals is expected to be made early Wednesday.

(source: news9.com)

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Inmates suing state over execution protocol request medical witness at upcoming execution

John Grant is set to die at the hands of the state on Thursday. Recent court filings make that more of a reality as Oklahoma seeks to execute its 1st death row inmate in more than 6 years.

On Tuesday, a hearing was held in federal court with lawyers for the inmates suing Oklahoma over its execution protocol.

The hearing laid out what will happen during Thursday's execution. Plaintiffs had filed a motion to "Preserve Evidence of the Execution of John Marion Grant".

In the documents, the court ordered the state to make 1 seat available in Grant's allotment of seats for a "medical witness" selected by the plaintiffs.

The plaintiff's main argument of the lawsuit against the state is that Oklahoma's execution protocol, which uses a 3-drug cocktail including the controversial drug Midazolam, is akin to "cruel and unusual" punishment.

Having a medical witness at the upcoming execution could be crucial to their case

(source: okcfox.com)

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State prepares for 1st execution in nearly 7 years on Thursday

Pam Carter wrote in 2000 that she still looked at the answering machine every day expecting a message from her mother.

“Mom never failed to leave a daily message on my answering machine,” she wrote in a letter given to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. “It was usually just an ‘I love you.’”

Her mother, Gay Carter, worked at the Dick Connor Correctional Center in Hominy in 1998 when inmate John Marion Grant pulled her into a mop closet and stabbed her 16 times. 5 stab wounds struck vital organs. She died of internal bleeding.

Grant on Thursday could become the 1st inmate executed in Oklahoma in nearly 7 years since the state halted executions due to problems with the lethal-injection procedure.

According to DOC protocol, he will be offered a mild sedative no later than 4 hours before the execution.

If no stay is issued by a court, he will be given an opportunity to say his last words about 4 p.m. Thursday.

He then will be administered a lethal dose of chemicals designed to kill him at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

For his last meal, served between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on the day before the execution, Grant has requested two bacon cheeseburgers with onion, tomato, pickles, lettuce and mustard; half a gallon of Neapolitan ice cream; a large bag of barbeque chips; a large package of Nutter Butter sandwich cookies; and a 2-liter bottle of Mr. Pibb, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. The last meal must cost $25 or less.

On Oct. 5, the Pardon and Parole Board chose not to recommend that Gov. Kevin Stitt grant clemency to Grant. It was his 2nd clemency denial.

Grant has a lengthy criminal history, dating back to when he was 11 years old. He spent time in the juvenile system before going to the adult corrections system.

Defense attorneys said he grew up in a troubled and poor home. They said the state failed to provide him proper treatment.

The state put executions on hold in 2015.

Lethal injection issues: The decision came after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014 and the 2015 execution of Charles Warner using the wrong drug.

In March 2018, Oklahoma announced that it would use nitrogen gas to execute condemned inmates because it could not find the drugs for the lethal-injection process.

A law in 2015 allowed for nitrogen hypoxia to be used as an execution method.

Two years after the announcement about using nitrogen gas, the state said it had secured a reliable source for the drugs and would resume executions by lethal injection.

The drugs to be used Thursday are midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

“The Department of Corrections has addressed concerns regarding carrying out the death penalty and is prepared to follow the will of the people of Oklahoma, as expressed in state statute, and the orders of the courts by carrying out the execution of inmates sentenced to death by a jury of their peers,” Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow said.

Stitt has toured the execution chamber and been briefed on the process, said Charlie Hannema, a spokesman for the governor. He will not witness the execution, Hannema said.

Between 1915 and 2015, some 192 men and 3 women have been put to death in Oklahoma, according to the DOC.

(source: Tulsa World)

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Julius Jones life ‘dangling’ in legal limbo as Oklahoma resumes executions: ‘He deserves to be heard’----Oklahoma will begin executing inmates this week, leaving Julius Jones and other death row inmates with an ongoing constitutional case against the state uncertain about their future. Josh Marcus writes from Oklahoma

On Tuesday morning, under a grey Oklahoma City sky, a crowd of about fifty people stood in an arc in a church parking lot with their hands raised in prayer, beaming hope across North Martin Luther King Avenue towards the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

The group was there to demonstrate their support for Julius Jones, a Black man on death row who has long maintained his innocence in the brutal murder of Paul Howell. Howell, a white suburban businessman, was shot in front of his children during a carjacking in the Oklahoma City suburbs in 1999.

Jones, calling into his sister Antoinette from death row, 123 miles away in McAlester, Oklahoma, told the crowd, “Y’all stay safe, keep warm out there. Don’t let up."

“He said he felt the love,” Antoinette added. “They can’t stop what’s happening.”

Faith and love is about all Julius’s supporters, and opponents of the death penalty in Oklahoma, have left at this point.

The growing “Justice for Julius” movement had hoped today would be a day of celebration.

2 decades after a shaky public defense team failed to call a single witness, including Jones himself, the 41-year-old, who was a teenager when he was arrested, was set to finally plead his case directly to authorities for the 1st time. The clemency hearing originally scheduled for Tuesday was his last form of legal appeal available. Only the state’s Republican governor Kevin Stitt, who supports capital punishment, now has the power to take him off death row.

Late Monday night, however, a federal court ruled that executions could proceed against Jones and others, despite their ongoing constitutional challenge to the state’s lethal injection protocol, which they say is so faulty and dangerous as to constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Jones’s clemency hearing has been moved to 1 November. His execution is set for 17 days later.

As Julius remains in limbo, the state’s execution chamber is being readied for the 1st time since a series of botched executions in 2014 and 2015 killed 2 men with the wrong drug and nearly executed a 3rd the same way.

John Grant, 60, a Black man who was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing a prison kitchen worker, is scheduled to be executed on Thursday with the lethal injection protocol the lawsuit is challenging.

The state Department of Correction said on Tuesday in a statement that since those botched killings, “extensive validations and redundancies have been implemented” to prevent more accidents. Oklahoma still uses the same 3-drug mixture it did in 2014, which the suit argues don’t do enough to knock out inmates before they’re killed, in a feeling akin to being “burned alive.” It doesn’t disclose where it sources the chemicals it injects into inmates during their executions.

An execution is the ultimate act of finality. The dead can’t file appeals. But as the last few weeks and decades in Oklahoma have shown, the process of reaching a final decision about an execution is agonizingly slow and shockingly fast all at once.

Jones’s friends and family, as well as a growing number of supporters and high-profile advocates like Kim Kardashian, maintain that he is innocent, the victim of a flawed police investigation reliant on biased informants, a prosecution tainted by systemic and individual racism, and an overall lust to mollify a panicked city, as well as a bumbling public defense team. The news that after two decades of fighting, Julius again wouldn’t be able to share his side of the story just yet, came as a blow to supporters.

“I was frustrated. I was hurt,” said Dionne Carruthers, Julius’s cousin, as she stood among the crowd of activists wearing a “Justice for Julius” t-shirt. “I felt pain for Julius in that moment upon hearing the news because he has never been able to use his voice to speak on his own behalf, to speak his own truth, and to be heard. He deserves that like every other human being to be heard, and to have their truth be told.”

(Julius hasn’t personally taken the stand in court since 2000, but has been recorded calling in from prison as part of various news stories, as well as The Last Defense, a widely seen 2018 ABC documentary produced by the actress Viola Davis.)

“I feel let down. It kind of just hurts my feelings that people can just dangle somebody’s life like that,” said Jabee Williams, a Justice for Julius organiser and friend of the Jones family. “He’s going to be human again when he gets to speak. It’s hard for a person to commit an act of anything—violence, murder, death—to somebody you see as human, unless they’re evil. At that point, whenever he gets to speak, and they understand that he’s human, and that he has something to offer the world, I think that’s going to change the hearts of so many people.”

After decades of making little headway, it at first seemed things had finally began picking up for Julius this fall. 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. A month later, a federal appeals court allowed him and other death row inmates to rejoin the constitutional lawsuit against lethal injection, a suit the previous Oklahoma attorney general, Mike Hunter, said he would allow to proceed before scheduling more executions.

Mr Hunter resigned in May amid an alleged marital scandal. The new attorney general, John O’Connor, who did not respond to The Independent’s requests for comment, has pressed forward with setting death dates.

But now, the impending executions are a sign that despite an unprecedented effort to get Julius off of death row, it may not be enough to sway officials in Oklahoma, a state that’s executed the third most people in modern American history and has one of the highest Black incarceration rates in the country. Earlier in October, state officials denied John Grant’s clemency request, and if the state restarts the death penalty with his execution on Thursday, it’s a major harbinger of what’s to come, according to advocates.

“What we learned yesterday is that the government doesn’t care,” Abe Bonowitz, director of the group Death Penalty Action, said. “If he is [executed], that’s the warning sign for Julius and for all of us.”Mr Bonowitz noted that in 2016, 2/3 of Oklahomans voted for a constitutional amendment enshrining capital punishment, though nearly 500,000 voted against it.

“Where are those people?” he added. “It’s our job to pull them out.”

Meanwhile, the state, along with Mr Howell’s family, insists that the system worked and correctly convicted Julius as the killer, a charge that was examined on numerous appeals considered by 13 different judges, in courts at the local, state, appeals, and US Supreme Court level.

“The truth is that Julius Jones murdered Paul Howell…the evidence tells an incontrovertible truth; a truth that has been reaffirmed these many years by every court which has considered the entirety of the evidence,” Attorney General O’Connor said in his office’s brief submitted as part of the clemency process. “To call this a case with overwhelming evidence of guilt is an understatement”.

The Howell family, which did not respond to The Independent’s multiple requests for comment, said in a statement to KFOR on Monday it was “relieved” that executions were going forward, putting to rest an increasingly publicised appeals process they feel has been hijacked by outsiders and celebrities with an agenda.

“This has been an extremely difficult process on our family and so many other homicide victims’ families,” the Howells said. “We have all waited patiently as the lengthy and thorough capital appeal process has run its course.”

Both the Howells and the Jones families will now, as ever, be left waiting for closure about their loved ones.

In the meantime, Justice for Julius advocates are trying to keep the faith in the power of his story alive.

“The state of Oklahoma may believe they own Julius, but they don’t. You can’t own something you didn’t make,” Cece Jones-Davis, one of the leaders of the group, said on Tuesday. “God owns Julius Jones, and there’s nothing the state of Oklahoma can do to change that.”

Natasha Normand, a traveling nurse from the Oklahoma City suburb of Yukon, learned about his story after watching The Last Defense. Now, she wears a Justice for Julius wristband and button when she works with patients across Oklahoma and Kansas.

“I’m able to share the case, share the website, share the social media, and then people are just in shock,” she said. “It doesn’t stop with Julius. Julius isn’t the only one by far. You know, I used to be indifferent about the death penalty, not really thinking about it. I do feel that the death penalty needs to go away because there are too many innocent people,” she added.

And the legal machinations around Julius haven’t stop either. Local officials like Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, as well as the state attorney general, have pushed to remove two officials appointed by Governor Stitt to the state Pardon and Parole Board, which will offer a recommendation about Jones’s clemency, arguing their past criminal justice work should disqualify them from the clemency process. (They both disagree). So far the campaign to remove them has been rebuffed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, last week, a judge approved a signature-gathering campaign, the 1st step in a rarely-used citizen recall process seeking to remove DA Prater from office, fueled in part by his involvement in pushing for Jones’s execution.

Jones’s family is grateful for the continued public support, with his mother Madeline Davis-Jones, telling The Independent that the rally on Tuesday was “beautiful,” and that she hopes Julius’s testimony, whenever it happens, is enough to move the governor, a man who speaks often of the moral guidance of his evangelical Christian faith.

“I feel like if he is the man that the people have elected him to be, he’ll do the right thing,” Ms Davis-Jones said.

Not leaving it to mercy, public defenders representing Julius and four other men have filed a last-minute appeal with the federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to pause executions until a trial in the constitutional lawsuit against Oklahoma can play out, scheduled for early next year. A decision could come down as soon as Tuesday evening.

“The district court itself has acknowledged serious questions about whether Oklahoma’s execution procedures will cause prisoners unconstitutional pain and suffering. With a trial on that very question set to begin in February, executions should not go forward,” said public defender Dale Baich in a statement.

No matter what happens, the Jones family will keep praying for their son—and the Howells too. Ms Carruthers, Julius’s cousin, said she understands what it’s like to be in their position.

“We can do nothing but pray for them, and wish nothing but God’s best for them. I just pray for them daily.” she said. “They are in a very unfortunate situation as well, a tragic situation.”

Both families feel as though the public doesn’t understand the full truth. Where they diverge is defining what that full truth is, and what officials should do about it. There may never be a widely agreed upon interpretation of what happened in the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, but the state of Oklahoma will soon provide its answer, and it will be final.

(source: The Independent)

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Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections says it's prepared to resume executions----Oklahoma's 1st execution in almost 6 years is scheduled for Thursday.

The Oklahoma State Department of Corrections said in a news release Tuesday that it is prepared to resume executions.

Department officials said they invested significant hours into reviewing policies and practices to ensure executions are handled humanely, efficiently and in accordance with state statute and court rulings.

"The Department of Corrections has addressed concerns regarding carrying out the death penalty and is prepared to follow the will of the people of Oklahoma, as expressed in state statute, and the orders of the courts by carrying out the execution of inmates sentenced to death by a jury of their peers," director Scott Crow said in the news release.

ODOC officials said they continue to use the approved 3-drug protocol that has been proven humane and effective. They also have confirmed a source to supply the drugs needed for all currently scheduled executions.

Oklahoma's 1st execution since 2015 is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Death row inmate John Grant is slated to be put to death for killing an Oklahoma corrections center employee.

Grant has been on death row since 1998.

The execution will occur days after a U.S. District judge denied a stay of execution request for five Oklahoma death row inmates, including Julius Jones. The death row inmates' lawyers filed an emergency appeal Monday after the federal judge said he wouldn't block Oklahoma from performing its first execution in almost 6 years.

(source: KOCO news)

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Warriors’ Kerr, Curry join calls to support Oklahoma man set for November execution----Julius Darius Jones has spent 19 years on death row in Oklahoma, but advocates say he was wrongly convicted

The Warriors did more than play basketball on their first visit to the Sooner State this season.

Coach Steve Kerr and superstar Stephen Curry each posted messages in support of Julius Darius Jones, a man sentenced to death in Oklahoma almost 20 years ago, whom advocates say was wrongly convicted. A parole board was set to hear Jones’ appeal Tuesday but the clemency hearing was delayed until Nov. 1.

Berkeley pastor Mike McBride, a good friend of Kerr’s and a national leader in social justice movements, was in town for the hearing and brought some of Jones’ family members to the Warriors’ hotel to speak with Kerr and some Warriors players.

Kerr sported a “Justice for Julius” shirt and put his arm around Jones’ sister, Antoinette, as he spoke on video in support of the case. “I’m calling for justice for Julius,” Kerr said in the video.

Many thanks to @warriors @SteveKerr taking time to meet with Julius’s sister Antoinette + @justice4julius campaign and lend his support to #FreeJuliusJones. Help us call @GovStitt and request he honor the ruling of the parole and pardon board and commute his sentence???? pic.twitter.com/jLcN4TWp0L — Michael McBride (@impastormike_) October 26, 2021

Curry was captured on video Monday night expressing his support.

“I stand with Julius, the whole family and pray that justice is served for our brother and that he’s a free man soon,” Curry said.

Asked Tuesday before tipoff why he wanted to speak up about the case, Kerr said, “I was able to learn more about the case. … There’s definitely an awareness level of what’s happening. We’re supporting his family. It’s just something we feel strongly about and support.”

Jones, 41, has spent 1/2 his life in prison after he was convicted in 2002 of first-degree murder for a slaying in which Jones has maintained he had no part.

Last year, Baker Mayfield, Russell Westbrook, Trae Young, Blake Griffin and Dak Prescott all spoke up in support of Jones, and a petition on behalf of his innocence has garnered more than 6.4 million signatures.

In September, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted to recommend his sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole, but Gov. Kevin Stitt refused to make a final decision on the case until Jones’ clemency hearing, which was pushed back this week.

Oklahoma has executed more people than all but two states since 1976, despite putting a pause on all lethal injections since 2015, after a series of botched killings. However, the state was set to resume the use of capital punishment this year.

Jones’ execution is still scheduled for Nov. 18.

(source: Oroville Mercury-Register)

UTAH:

Utah County Commission to sign resolution seeking repeal on death penalty

A resolution declaring support for repealing and replacing the death penalty will be on the agenda for Wednesday’s Utah County Commission meeting.

The resolution calls on the Utah State Legislature to remove the death penalty option from state law, following nearly 2 dozen other states, and replace it with alternative measures that can still help ensure justice is served.

The commission is expected to support Utah County Attorney David Leavitt in his quest to have the legislature repeal the death penalty and instead opt for a sentence of life in prison or an alternative of equal measure.

“As a commission we’ve discussed this quite a bit,” said Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner.

“I’m grateful for this resolution. It’s a result of years of data and study,” Leavitt said. “It addresses, with facts, many of the big lies we as a society have allowed to persist about what the death penalty accomplishes.”

“It is time to dispel the myths that justice can only be found in the death penalty. It will never make our communities safer and government should not have that much power,” Leavitt added.

Gardner noted the strain on the county’s budget and on the taxpayers. The county went 20 years without a death penalty case before having 2.

“Leavitt comes and asks for money for the case and then the public defenders would come and ask money for the same case,” Powers said.

Gardner noted that prior to being a commissioner, as clerk/auditor, the topic came up regarding the budget continually.

Gardner said that because it was not a good use of taxpayer dollars, the commission has decided not to fund the cases.

“It is the fiscally conservative thing to do,” Gardner said.

She noted that her attitude has changes since being an elected official. Gardner gets to see the hard evidence of data that is contrary to what she thought.

“It has been the most surprising and interesting item I’ve had to navigate as an elected official,” Gardner said. “Data shows the death penalty is not a deterrent.”

In the resolution it states, “the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice found that over a 20-year period tracking death eligible cases, state and local expenses totaled almost $40 million for which only 2 new death sentences were realized,”

It adds that, “Utah County is required to pay for costs involving the prosecution and defense of such cases which, due to their unpredictable nature and infrequency, creates significant challenges for managing the county’s budget and allocating over $1 million annually for related expenses.”

In early comments and discussions, Leavitt has used Ron Lafferty, a former Utah County resident convicted of killing his sister-in-law Brenda Lafferty and her young daughter as an example of not only the costs involved with repeated court cases and repeals, but the lack of carry through on the death penalty by the state.

Lafferty was given the death penalty in 1984. After several appeals and new trials over 35 years, Lafferty had used up all of his options and in July of 2019 the state said the execution would go forward. Lafferty, 78, died in November of 2019 from causes due to health in the state prison.

While Ron Lafferty remained notable for the murders and the press coverage of him being on death row, many have forgotten Dan Lafferty, his brother and partner in the murders who received life imprisonment.

The commission’s resolution states, “The death penalty is not a deterrent, as states where the death penalty is not an option have a lower average murder rate than states that still have it. The last 2 individuals on “death row” in Utah to die did so due to natural causes”

In signing the resolution, the commissioners recognized the families who have been hurt and traumatized over the years and the suffering they may have gone through from losing a loved one.

“It is possible to achieve justice for and bring closure to victim family members through a Life Without Parole sentence,” the resolution states.

The resolution also notes the risks involved with capital punishment as it can proceed to the U.S. Supreme Court with lengthy appeals process and heightened legal scrutiny, which increases the costs to taxpayers and causes victim family members to wait a “very long time for justice to be served.”

State Rep. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, and State Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, are co-sponsoring a bill in the legislature to repeal the death penalty.

Connor Boyack with Libertas Institute has been involved with the support of overturning the death penalty and the issues attached to it.

“Countless conservatives support eliminating the death penalty because it’s how we can achieve justice without added taxpayer expense, hurting victim family members and creating risk to innocent people,” Boyack said. “Utah County being the first county in the state to lead out on this issue highlights how people who believe in limited government are deeply concerned about the government’s power to kill people and the many problems that power creates.”

Boyack noted that Representative Snow’s proposed bill is a conservative approach to solving this problem and achieving justice.

(source: Daily Herald)

USA:

Marathon bomber faces revived death penalty in high court

The Biden administration will try to persuade the Supreme Court this week to reinstate the death penalty for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by arguing that a jury had no need to examine evidence that the government itself relied on at an earlier phase of the case.

Tsarnaev’s guilt in the deaths of 3 people in the bombing near the finish line of the marathon in 2013 is not at issue in the case the justices will hear Wednesday — just whether he should be sentenced to life in prison, or death.

Nor is the court likely to ponder the administration’s aggressive pursuit of a capital sentence for Tsarnaev even as it has halted federal executions and President Joe Biden has called for an end to the federal death penalty.

Instead, the main focus will be on evidence that Tsarnaev’s lawyers wanted the jury to hear that supported their argument that his older brother, Tamerlan, was the mastermind of the attack and that the impressionable younger brother was less responsible. The evidence implicated Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a triple killing in the Boston suburb of Waltham on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The federal appeals court in Boston ruled last year that the trial judge made a mistake in excluding the evidence and threw out Tsarnaev’s death sentence. There’s a second issue in the case: whether the trial judge did enough to question jurors about their exposure to extensive news coverage of the bombing.

The Trump administration, which carried out 13 executions in its last 6 months, quickly appealed. When the new administration didn’t indicate any change of view, the court agreed to review the case.

(source: Associated Press)

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Sir Richard Branson Talks the Death Penalty, Criminal Justice Reform on ‘Righteous Convictions with Jason Flom’

Today, 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 are among 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.

(source: globenewswire.com)

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Meth and Murder: The Drug Kingpin who Executed 5 Iowans to Stay Out of Prison

Dustin Honken, who was recently mentioned in an article referencing the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit, was beyond his years in his knowledge of chemistry, showing off what he was capable of at community college in Iowa.

So much so that he took that knowledge and deemed it better to drop out of school and start selling methamphetamine instead.

No, this isn't the story of Breaking Bad and Walter White.

This is much, much worse.

Honken, who began selling cocaine and marijuana to start his 'career' as a drug dealer, quickly shifted to meth and moved to Arizona to further his operation.

Still distributing throughout Iowa, the Britt native sold the product through 2 men remaining in his home state -- Terry DeGues and Greg Nicholson.

The partnership didn't last long, as Nicholson began cooperating with federal investigators after being under suspicion of trafficking drugs. Honken would then be arrested and indicted for conspiring to manufacture meth, as Nicholson secretly recorded Honken prior to testifying in front of a jury.

Honken would then inform the court that he planned to plead guilty, but that wouldn't last long.

Just days prior to his plea hearing in July 1993, the North Iowa Area Community College dropout would pair with his then-girlfriend, Angela Johnson, to seek a way out of their guilty plea. Out on bond, the 2 went searching for Nicholson, and they found him.

In his home in Mason City, Nicholson was accompanied by his girlfriend, Lori Duncan, and her 2 young daughters.

Per kare11.com, this is what unfolded:

"According to prosecutors, Johnson posed as a cosmetics saleswoman to get into the house. Honken forced Nicholson, 34, to record a statement declaring Honken innocent of the drug charges. Nicholson and the Duncans were then taken to a remote area, fatally shot and buried. Honken withdrew his guilty plea and gave his lawyer the videotape of Nicholson."

The investigation continued and the aforementioned group of 4 wouldn't be the only ones whose lives were taken by Dustin Honken.

The other dealer, DeGeus, was lured to a property by Johnson where Honken beat him with a baseball bat and shot him.

Kare11.com continues:

“Investigators found the bodies of Nicholson and the Duncans in 2000 in a wooded area outside Mason City after Johnson was duped into giving a hand-drawn map showing where they were buried to a jailhouse informant. The adults had been bound and gagged and shot multiple times. The girls had each been shot once in the back of the head. DeGeus’ body was found a few miles away, his skull fractured.”

The site then adds the following in reference to what charges eventually came from the murders:

“Honken was convicted of the killings in 2004 in a trial that featured extraordinary security measures, including an anonymous jury. Honken was bolted to the floor of the courtroom and wore a stun belt under his clothing to prevent escape attempts.”

The jury deemed his crimes were worth the death penalty, and beginning in 2005, the former drug kingpin was put on death row.

Johnson was convicted in a separate trial and sentenced to death. A judge later reduced her sentence to life in prison.

Honken was given a lethal injection in July of 2020 in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Pronounced dead at 4:36 p.m. on a Friday, per apnews.com, "the inmate spoke only briefly, neither addressing victims’ family members nor saying he was sorry. Honken, who was supposedly 'redeemed' and had 'repented of his crimes,' said these as his final words: “'Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for me.'”

(source: KHAK news)

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Justice for the Dead----Pardons are most beneficial when they redeem the living. But posthumous ones can show that discredited values of the past are no longer the values of the present.

About the author: Scott D. Seligman is a national-award-winning author of nine books. His most recent work, about the John Snowden case, is A Second Reckoning: Race, Injustice, and the Last Hanging in Annapolis.

As relatives looked on, some sobbing, some applauding, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam granted posthumous pardons in August to the Martinsville Seven, young Black men electrocuted 70 years ago for the rape of a white woman. Northam took no position on their guilt or innocence; he merely cited ample evidence that the state had not accorded the men justice.

“Race played an undeniable role during the identification, investigation, conviction, and the sentencing” of the men, Northam said. None had attorneys or parents present during his interrogation and several were unable to read the confessions they had signed. What is more, all 45 men who received capital sentences in Virginia rape cases from 1908 to 1951 were Black; not a single white rapist was condemned to death. In hindsight, the state appears to have reserved the death penalty in such cases exclusively for Black men.

“We all deserve a criminal-justice system that is fair, equal, and gets it right—no matter who you are or what you look like,” the governor said. “We have 402 years of history and a lot of wrongs that we need to right.”

But what can pardons right when the recipients are dead and the wrongs are irreversible? America’s governors clearly believe that posthumous pardons have value, because they are issuing them at a rate never seen before, particularly in cases in which racial prejudice is thought to have subverted procedures, denied rights, or perverted verdicts. 50 such pardons have been granted in just the past 3 years, among them former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s 2019 posthumous pardon—his state’s 1st—of Grover Thompson, a Black man with a history of mental illness who was convicted 23 years earlier of stabbing a 72-year-old woman. DNA evidence and another man’s confession exonerated him after his death. In another first, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and the rest of the state’s pardon board extended a posthumous pardon to Max Mason, a Black man convicted of rape in 1920 on flimsy evidence by a racist judicial system.

These are symbolic acts, but that doesn’t make them meaningless. Two momentous events—the violent 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer—galvanized the search for symbolic acts to repudiate historical, structural racism. Most of the attention has focused on pulling down Confederate statues and stripping public buildings of the names of slaveholders.

Posthumous pardons are part of that same effort. Just as the debate over Confederate statues is less about those depicted by them than the values of the people who must walk past them every day, pardons are about the present and the future, not the past. They are most beneficial when they redeem the living, of course, and few would argue that current prisoners should not be ushered to the front of the line. But when applied to the dead, they can also be worthwhile when they heal, or when they send an affirmative message that the discredited values of the past are no longer the values of the present, nor should they be those of the future.

Posthumous pardons are rarities in American history. Nearly all have been granted at the state level. Although most governors have always had this power, they have issued only an estimated 175 such pardons in the nation’s entire history. Of that number, 85 % have been awarded in the 21st century, and of those, nearly 40 % have gone to minorities, almost all to Black Americans.

When pardons, postmortem or otherwise, are extended, it is usually in one of several types of cases. The easiest are those in which a defendant is proved innocent. An example is that of the Army veteran Timothy Cole, a Black man convicted of rape in Texas in 1985. He died in prison 14 years into a 25-year sentence, after refusing to confess in exchange for parole. Both a DNA mismatch and a subsequent confession by the real rapist established Cole’s innocence. The governor pardoned him in 2009, and a court reversed his conviction.

Sometimes pardons are warranted because social mores or the legal climate has changed. Bayard Rustin, a confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. and an organizer of the storied 1963 March on Washington, was convicted in California in 1953 of vagrancy and lewd conduct under laws routinely used to target LGBTQ people. He was jailed for 60 days and compelled to register as a sex offender. Nearly 70 years later, in 2020, heeding calls from state legislators, Governor Gavin Newsom extended Rustin a posthumous pardon.

Pardons are also occasionally granted when an individual’s accomplishments are thought to compensate society in some way for the crimes committed against it. In 1990, for example, Arizona Governor Rose Mofford pardoned 4 deceased prisoners convicted of offenses including armed robbery and manslaughter who lost their lives while serving as “inmate labor” on a detail battling a major forest fire.

And then there are the cases in which justice was denied. Although most people think of pardons as exonerations, they are, in fact, generally silent on the question of guilt. Proof of innocence has never been a requirement. If a convicted person can be shown to have been abused to elicit a confession or deprived of a fair trial, for example, a pardon is justifiable.

The story of the Black ice-delivery man John Snowden, set in Annapolis, Maryland, during the Jim Crow era and chronicled in my most recent book, A Second Reckoning: Race, Injustice, and the Last Hanging in Annapolis, is a case in point. In 1918, Snowden was convicted of the murder of a pregnant white woman after questionable treatment by the police and the courts. He lost on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his case, and the governor at the time refused him clemency. He was hanged in what many in Annapolis—Black and white—considered a “legal lynching.”

A reexamination decades later, prompted by local activists, raised troubling issues. Snowden testified that he had been threatened and physically abused by the police, but everything he said during his interrogation was admitted into evidence nonetheless. The legal gymnastics that the prosecution seems to have employed to ensure an all-white jury would be prohibited today. The judge did not permit the defense to impeach the credibility of the two principal witnesses for the prosecution, although they came forward only after a cash reward was offered. And the judge allowed prejudicial testimony about possible rape, even though Snowden was not charged with that crime.

83 years later, in 2001, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening declined to pronounce Snowden innocent. But, in asserting that “the search for justice has no statute of limitations,” he pardoned him because he believed that Snowden’s hanging was a miscarriage of justice.

Jessica R. Pliley: A pardon arrives 105 years too late

Although the bulk of posthumous pardons are not controversial, governors do occasionally take heat for extending them. More than eight decades had passed since Snowden’s execution, but Glendening was nonetheless excoriated by the murdered woman’s great-niece. Insisting that a “pardon has an interpretation of innocence”—even though it technically does not—she said that absent new, exonerating evidence, the governor had no legitimate basis on which to grant the pardon, and that his action was “tainted with political motives.”

When pardons are divisive, “politics” is often cited. In May, when Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued a sweeping, first-of-its-kind pardon of 34 Black men and boys who were lynched while in state custody, he came in for criticism. Willie Flowers, the head of the state’s NAACP, lambasted Hogan for “political posturing,” insisting that “celebrating himself by reminding people that lynchings happened is not the best thing you can do; it’s actually the least that he could do.”

A letter writer to The Baltimore Sun also objected. He accused the governor of “using flowery language to make some people feel better about the past and themselves, while not solving one real problem facing Black Americans today.”

And that just may get at the nub of the value, and the limitations, of posthumous pardons, especially the recent spate of them extended to Black Americans. They are not really about problem-solving, nor are they a substitution for it; they are about remembering, and about acknowledging error. They do no demonstrable good to the dead, but are all about the living: principally relatives and friends of the deceased, but also their spiritual or political heirs, or simply those interested in or moved by their cases.

How effective are these symbolic acts? Descendants and family members of pardon recipients certainly think they matter. Many have been quite vocal about how meaningful and inspirational they have found the revisiting of such cases. Pamela Hairston Chisholm, who worked for the pardon of the Martinsville Seven, told the press:

This is a day that we will be able to go back to our family members, young and old, and tell them the story of injustice, but also to tell them that you will never give up the fight for justice. If we band together and work together and fight together, we can acquire the end that we seek, because the Martinsville Seven is just one story … of many that have occurred day in and day out.

The day John Snowden’s pardon was finally secured was one of the happiest and proudest days in the life of his niece Hazel, who was born too late to have met her uncle but who believed in his innocence and worked tirelessly for his case’s reexamination. “I could feel his peace,” she told newspapers. And every year since that day in 2001, she has held a gathering in her uncle’s honor to which friends, relatives, and others who helped secure the pardon are invited to celebrate his life. It is a happy occasion, but one with its somber moments. Someone is asked to read the text of the pardon aloud, and someone else recites the soaring rhetoric of Snowden’s last statement, in which, reasserting his innocence, he declared, “I could not leave this world with a lie in my mouth.”

What value do such pardons offer society at large? In 2013, Alabama State Senator Arthur Orr sponsored a state-law amendment to allow for posthumous pardons. Its passage enabled pardons of the Scottsboro Boys, nine Black Alabama teenagers who were accused of raping two white women in 1931 and sentenced to death in rushed, unfair trials. He put it this way: “It’s an important step to show that the Alabama of the 21st century is a different place than it was 80-plus years ago.”

Like downed statues, posthumous pardons do not change public policy. They do not repeal bad laws. They certainly do not have any discernible effect on their recipients. But they have the potential to do much more than simply make people feel a little better about the past. In fact, they may be most valuable precisely for what they promise. In repudiating miscarriages of justice, especially those with racial overtones, such pardons make a statement that what was done in the past was wrong, and they serve as markers that make it more difficult for such wrongs to be repeated. At their best, they have the potential to restore faith in a judicial system in which many people have lost confidence, and to further the work of building a more just, more tolerant, and more equitable society.

(source: Scott D. Seligman is a national-award-winning author of nine books. His most recent work, about the John Snowden case, is A Second Reckoning: Race, Injustice, and the Last Hanging in Annapolis----theatlantic.com)

BANGLADESH:

5 to die in businessman Dulal Sheikh murder case

A Gopalganj court has sentenced 5 people to death penalty in absence in a case filed over businessman Dulal Sheikh murder of Muksudpur in Gopalganj.

They were also fined Tk 50,000 each in the case.

Judge Md Abbas Uddin of the District’s Additional Session Judge Court passed the order on Tuesday (October 26).

All the accused were absent during the announcement of the verdict.

The death-row convicts are: Fokkar Sheikh, son of Mannan Sheikh of Bhattyacharya Kandi village of the upazila, Mehedi Hasan Sheikh, son of Musa Sheikh, Sumon Saha, son of Shankar Saha of Gohala village, Kawsar Fakir, son of Kanchan Fakir and Amin Mollah, son of Siraj Mollah of the same upazila.

(source: risingbd.com)

INDIA:

Tindivanam Couple Gets Death Penalty for Murdering 3 Including Parents in Property Dispute----The Poonamallee Special Court has sentenced the elder son and his wife to death for murdering the 3 persons including parents.

A man and his wife have been convicted of killing his parents and brother by throwing petrol bombs after a property dispute. The Poonamallee Special Court has sentenced the elder son and his wife to death for murdering the 3 persons including parents.

The victims- 60-year-old Raj and 55-year-old Kala hailed from Kaveripakkam near Tindivanam in Villupuram district. Their elder son- Govardhanan (35) an AIADMK student team administrator in Tindivanam district was also working in the Travels and finance business as well. Govardhanan has been married to 29-year-old Deepa Gayathri. The family of 5 used to live in the same house.

The 3 were murdered by Govardhanan on May 15, 2019, when Raj, Kala and younger son Gauthaman have been sleeping at their home. In the morning, Govardhanan shouted that the AC in the room, where his parents and younger brother were sleeping, had exploded and caught fire. He came out of the house and called the neighbours for help. Before the police team and fire tenders could reach their, the three were caught in the fire and died.

Meanwhile, the cops and fire department had suspicion about the incident after they investigated the incident. Police found that the 60-year-old man was hit in the head and there was blood all over the room, while the younger son Gauthaman had similar head injuries. Kala was seen lying dead in burnt state.

Police also found that there was an odour of petrol coming from the burning room. Following this, police suspected that the three may have been killed on purpose.

Subsequently, a team led by Tindivanam police inspector launched an intensive investigation into the matter. When Govardhanan was interrogated, he admitted to burn his family alive. According to police, Govardhanan’s father Raj owned a welding workshop in Tindivanam wherein his brother Gauthaman was into finance business.

Govardhanan’s parents were fond of the younger brother and gave him more money for business and refused to help Govardhanan when he asked for financial support. Govardhanan also alleged that the parents sold a land which was in the name of the elder son and decided to give the money to the younger son Gauthaman.

“Without knowing any other way, I had been plotting plans for many days about murdering my father, mother and brother. On the day of the incident, at around 2 am, I threw a bottle filled with petrol into the room where they were sleeping and set it on fire. As my father woke up and tried to escape, I hit him on the head with a bottle and pushed him back into the room and locked the door,” Govardhanan said in the confession given to the police.

“We persuaded the neighbours that the AC exploded and the whole room caught on fire,” his statement added.

Tindivanam police registered a case, which was being heard in a special court in Poonamallee near Chennai. Following the completion of trial, Justice Velmurugan pronounced the verdict on Tuesday, where both Govardhanan and Deepa Gayathri were convicted.

The couple were sentenced to death penalties, seven years of rigorous imprisonment, life imprisonment under the Explosives Act and slapped with Rs 6 lakh fine as well.

(source: news18.com)

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Tamil Nadu couple awarded 4 death sentences for setting family members ablaze in their sleep

A special court near Chennai on Tuesday convicted and sentenced a couple to 4 death sentences, double lifer and imposed a fine of Rs 6 lakh for killing their family members in 2019.

After killing his parents and brother with the help of his wife, by dousing them in petrol while in sleep and setting them ablaze, the accused Goverdhanan had claimed they had died after the AC in the room exploded.

However, circumstantial evidence, medical report and the chemical analysis report went against the accused, who were pronounced guilty and awarded death penalty on three counts, Special Public Prosecutor N Vijayaraj said.

P Velmurugan, District Judge, Sessions Court for exclusive trial of Bomb Blast Cases at Poonamallee pronounced the verdict.

Goverdhanan had been demanding money from his parents for long to start a new business venture and was agitated that his parents did not heed to it.

In May 2019, the victims were found dead inside their locked house and Goverdhanan blamed an AC explosion for their death and even preferred a police complaint in this regard.

A DSP-rank official probed the matter and later it emerged the husband-wife duo had poured petrol on Goverdhanan's parents and younger brother and set them on fire, Vijayaraj said, adding, there were also cut injuries on one of the victims.

Factors like the AC machine not exploding but only melting, the accused escaping unhurt and other forensic analysis nailed the couple, he said, adding, they broke down upon hearing the sentencing on Tuesday.

The life imprisonments imposed are to run concurrently and it is also ordered to set off the period already undergone, if any, the court said.

(source: indiatoday.in)

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Man gets death penalty for raping and killing 11-year-old

A POCSO court in Rajasthan on Tuesday awarded the death penalty to a man for raping and killing an 11-year-old girl in a little over four months after the commission of the crime.

An Ajmer's POCSO court imposed the sentence in the rape and murder case lodged at the Pushkar police station in June this year.

Special Judge Ratan Lal Moond awarded the death penalty to Sundar alias Surendra alias Sattu a day after convicting him of the rape and killing of the child.

DGP M L Lather said on June 21 this year, the 11-year-old girl had gone to graze cattle in the hills of Vaidhinath Mahadev in the Pushkar area of Ajmer and her body was found at night.

He said the police arrested Sattu on June 22 and filed a charge sheet against him on June 25.

This is the 2nd case in the Ajmer range where the courts have awarded death penalties in rape and murder cases.

Last week on Friday, a special POCSO court in Merta city in Nagaur district had awarded the death penalty to a 25-year-old man after convicting him of raping and killing a 7-year-old girl.

Earlier on October 5, a Jaipur court had sentenced a 25-year-old man to 20 years in jail for raping a nine-year-old girl, imposing the punishment within 9 days of the commission of the crime.

(source: theweek.in)

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Minor’s rape, murder: Death verdict for youth in 4 months

The POCSO special court here on Tuesday awarded death sentence to Surender alias Satu (26), a resident of Hokara village of Pushkar, for raping and killing a 11-year-old girl at Baijnath Temple hills 4 months ago. The court also imposed a penalty of Rs 1.12 lakh on the accused.

On June 21, the mutilated body of the girl, who was studying in Class VII, was found on a hill where she had taken her goats for grazing. There was resentment among villagers who demanded death sentence for the accused.

Police arrested the accused on June 22 and submitted the chargesheet on June 25. Special prosecutor Roopendra Parhihar said the prosecution produced 20 witnesses and presented 51 documents in the court against the accused. On Tuesday, the court awarded death sentence to the accused. This is the first death sentence for rape and murder in the district.

According to prosecution, the girl went to graze her goats to nearby Baijnath hills of Hokara village in Pushkar. Her naked body with her face smashed was recovered by her family. There was massive anger throughout Pushkar following which police arrested Surendra. He later admitted to police that he was drunk and when he saw the girl of his village, he raped her and killed her and tried to hide her identity.

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Death penalty under POCSO Act: U’khand HC asks state to submit objections in 2 weeks

Hearing an appeal against the death sentence awarded to Mohd Azhar, a resident of Ambadi Dakpatthar, by a POCSO court, the Uttarakhand HC has asked government to file its objections within 2 weeks.

A division bench of Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice NS Dhanik has fixed November 16 as next date of hearing.

The case dates back to February 2, 2016, when area residents found a body hanging from a tree near Tyudi Rota Khada in Dehradun and immediately informed police.

The body was identified as that of a Nepalese student studying in Navi.

Residents told police that they last saw the student with Mohd Azhar on a bike on January 1, 2016.

Thereafter, the accused went into hiding and was arrested on January 5, 2016, from Sirmaur in Himachal. The accused confessed to the crime, saying after raping the minor, he hung his body from a tree to project is at a suicide case.

On December 12, 2018, the special judge of Dehradun POCSO court, Rama Pandey, sentenced the accused to death sentence along with a fine of Rs 70,000. The court also said that Rs 50,000 is to be given to the relatives of the deceased and Rs 20,000 to be deposited in the state treasury. Challenging the order, the accused filed an appeal in the HC.

(source for both: The Times of India)

PAKISTAN:

Zainab rape, murder case: Prime accused awarded capital punishment

The Additional District and Sessions Judge, Rawalpindi, Muhammad Afzal Majoka, on Tuesday awarded capital punishment on 2 counts to prime accused, Babar Masih and Muhammad Adnan, in the Zainab rape and murder case and imposed a fine of Rs0.5 million each. The court also pronounced seven years imprisonment sentence to co-accused Aniqa, wife of Babar Masih. The court stated giving verdict on the basis of strong evidence against all the accused.

9-year-old Zainab was raped and murdered in the Jhanda Chechi after she went missing after leaving her home for a nearby shop. Her body was later found from a house in the neighbourhood.

Following the incident, police arrested a suspect, identified as Babar Masih, and detained him at the Civil Lines Police Station, where enraged protesters gathered and demanded the police to hand him over for hanging him publicly. The victim’s father, Muhammad Imran, registered a case under sections of 302/34, 376, 376-B(3)-376 B and 201 against Babar Masih, Muhammad Adnan and Aniqa with the Civil Lines Police Station on March 22, 2021. The police told the court that the minor was sexually assaulted before being killed, adding that the suspects’ DNA sample was collected, which confirmed their involvement.

It is pertinent to mention that the case is reminiscent of another rape and murder case, in which a minor girl Zainab was raped and killed and her body was thrown on garbage heap.

(source: thenews.com.pk)

***********

Court Awards 2-time Death Sentence To 2 In A Minor Rape, Murder Case

A District and Sessions Court on Tuesday sentenced two times death to 2 accused in a rape and murder case.

Babar Masih and Muhammad Adnan were found guilty of killing a 9-year-old girl Zainab after forced rape in the civil lines police station area in March 2021.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Muhammad Afzal Majoka pronounced the verdict after recording evidence of the witnesses and final arguments from both sides.

The Court imposed a fine of Rs 500,000 on both the convicted.

The Judge also awarded 7 years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 100,000 to a co-accused woman Kaweta alias Aniqa found guilty of hiding the crime.

(source: urdupoint.com)

IRAN:

Child Killed in Secret Among 230 Iran Executions in 2021, U.N. Says

A child, who was executed in secret, is among 230 people put to death in Iran so far this year, according to the United Nations' independent investigator on human rights in the country.

Javaid Rehman said Monday that an additional 250 people or more were executed in 2020, including at least four child offenders, the Associated Press reported.

While speaking to the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee, Rehman said that Iran continues to leverage the death penalty "at an alarming rate," adding that "the absence of official statistics and lack of transparency around executions means that this practice escapes scrutiny resulting in serious abuses preventing accountability."

Rehman said that his report on the number of people put to death also brings up concerns regarding why people are given the death penalty, citing "vague national security charges" used as justification against some of the people executed. He added that Iran has "deeply flawed judicial processes, where even the most basic safeguards are absent," AP reported.

"These elements, and the heavy reliance by courts on forced confessions extracted under torture and other fair trial violations, lead me to conclude that the imposition of the death penalty in the Islamic Republic of Iran constitutes arbitrary deprivation of life," Rehman said.

According to Amnesty International, Iran was the top executioner in the Middle East last year, accounting for more than 1/2 the region's 493 executions, followed by Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Amnesty's annual figures exclude China, where executions believed to number in the thousands are classified as a state secret, and omit executions from some countries marred by conflict like Syria.

Rehman, a Pakistani-born professor of human rights and Islamic law at Brunel University in London, called it "imperative" for Iran to undertake criminal law and justice reforms, starting "most urgently" with a moratorium on the death penalty for child offenders.

He said that beyond executions, the overall human rights situation in Iran "remains grim."

He pointed to "persistent impunity for serious violations of human rights law," including those committed by people in powerful positions and "at the highest level of public office."

"The presidential elections in June this year clearly highlight this point," Rehman said. He didn't elaborate, but Iran's new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, led Iran's judiciary in recent years, and as a prosecutor early in his career, Raisi served on a so-called "death panel," deciding who would live or be executed in a purge that activists said resulted in the killing of as 5,000 people in 1988.

(source: Newsweek)

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Kurdish prisoners in Iran transferred to ‘unknown location’ at the risk of execution: watchdogs

2 Kurdish prisoners are at the risk of execution after they were transferred to an unknown location from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) detention center in Urmia in West Azerbaijan province, human rights watchdogs reported on Tuesday.

Mohedin Ebrahimi, a 40-year-old from Oshnavieh in West Azerbaijan province was arrested after being shot and injured in November 2017 by Iranian forces. He was transferred to IRGC intelligence detention center in Urmia, where he was “interrogated and tortured,” Paris-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) reported.

Ebrahimi was first sentenced in August 2018 on charges in participation of opposition parties, and then again in January 2020 on the same charges.

The other prisoner, Mohedin Tazaward, was arrested in October 2018 by Iranian intelligence and sentenced to death on charges of “membership of Salafi groups.” He was also transferred to the Urmia detention center following interrogation.

Kurdish human rights watchdogs reported that both were transferred to “an unknown location” on Tuesday without an explanation, noting that they are at risk of being executed.

Iran subjugates many of its detainees to enforced disappearances, holding them in undisclosed locations and hiding their fates and whereabouts from their families, a 2021 Amnesty International report said.

Iran is also one of the biggest death penalty enforcers in the world, with its number of death sentences branded “troubling” by UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Javaid Rehman in a March statement.

More than 230 people were executed in 2020, data collected by Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) showed. The report added that more than 72% of executions were done in secret and not reported by the government.

(source: rudaw.net)

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Families and witnesses are seeking justice for the victims of the 1988 massacre.

Several former political prisoners, families, and witnesses seeking justice for the 1988 massacre in Iran spoke at a gathering near the Court of Stockholm, where Hamid Noury, one of the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre, is on trial. Following are excerpts of their speeches.

Maliheh Hosseini is a family member of 3 victims of the genocide carried out in 1988 in Iran. At the gathering of protesters seeking justice for the massacre victims, she said, “Shahpour Aligholi, 1 of the members of the Mojahedin, was arrested on April 4, 1984. He was executed after 2.5 years’ imprisonment and torture. Shahpour was his family’s only son and a father to his only daughter, whom he loved the most. But he proudly sacrificed his life for his country.”

“2 of my relatives, named Ali Malayeri and Mohammed Reza Karili, were arrested in 1981. Both were hanged in the 1988 massacre. Ali’s sentence was 10 years’ imprisonment, but they executed him in the massacre.”

Ms. Sara Shahmohammadi is a former political prisoner and 1 of the witnesses to the 1988 massacre. She asserted, “The regime’s crimes never end, and you can never imagine how far they go. The oppression imposed on each of the families of these loved ones has never been described anywhere in history. There are so many fathers and mothers who, for many years, were subjected to severe slander, pressure, and stress. Most of them, hoping to see their children for 4-5 minutes in the prisons’ visitor sections, returned to their hometowns with their bags in their hands. For example, my father told me that every time he went to Ghezel Hesar Prison, prison officials poured boiling water from the roof onto visitors’ heads so the visitors would have to leave without seeing their children. Every week, when they returned from the visit, they were told, “Next week, we will give you your child’s grave number.”

“Another lesser-known crime was imprisonment of children

“Another lesser-known crime was imprisonment of children. Young children were held with their mothers in solitary confinement in various cells. I’m sure that parents present today can imagine how much pressure women political prisoners felt because their children were forcibly kept in prison.”

(source: women.ncr-iran.org)

OCTOBER 26, 2021:

TEXAS:

U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Review Federal Appeals Court Ruling Overturning Grant of a New Trial for Texas Woman on Death Row for What May Have Been the Accidental Death of Her Child

The U.S. Supreme Court on October 18, 2021 denied review in the case of Texas death-row prisoner Melissa Elizabeth Lucio. Lucio was convicted and sentenced to death on charges that she murdered her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah. Lucio has long maintained that Mariah died from an accidental fall.

During a lengthy interrogation by police on the night her daughter died, Lucio gave a statement that prosecutors presented to the jury as a confession to killing Mariah. Lucio admitted to having spanked Mariah but denied ever having abused her. Late into the night, after hours of continuous interrogation, Texas Ranger Victor Escalon pressured Lucio to say more. She responded with: “I don’t know what you want me to say. I’m responsible for it.” When Escalon later asked her about specific bruises on her daughter’s body, Lucio said, “I guess I did it. I guess I did it.”

At trial, Lucio’s defense team sought to introduce testimony from 2 experts in trauma and mental health. Social worker Norma Villanueva and psychologist Dr. John Pinkerman had examined Lucio and said that her lifelong history of abuse and mental illness explained the “numb” and “deadpan” emotional state that police and prosecutors interpreted as evidence of her guilt.

In 2019, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted Lucio a new trial, finding that the trial court’s exclusion of testimony from the two experts had violated Lucio’s right to present a “complete defense.” It was only the 2nd time in more than 150 cases that the circuit court had granted relief to a Texas habeas corpus petitioner sentenced to death this century. However, in February 2021, the full Fifth Circuit reversed that ruling by a 10-7 vote, reinstating Lucio’s death sentence.

Lucio sought review in the U.S. Supreme Court, receiving support from a coalition of advocates for victims of domestic and gender-based violence, former prosecutors, legal scholars, and innocence organizations. In amicus briefs filed with the court, anti-violence advocates explained that Lucio’s history made her more likely to falsely confess: “Research shows that past trauma is ‘significantly associated’ with heightened suggestibility among individuals who falsely confess to crimes,” they wrote. “The legal proceedings in Melissa Lucio’s case expose the legal system’s failure to understand the consequences of gender-based violence and its relevance in the criminal justice system,” they said.

Lucio’s case is the subject of the award-winning documentary, The State of Texas vs. Melissa, which features interviews with Lucio and her family, as well as video footage of her coerced confession. Filmmaker Sabrina Van Tassel said that when she traveled to Texas to meet with Lucio’s siblings, “They told me that I was the first person in 13 years to ask anything about her case—that even her lawyer at the time of her trial had never tried to meet them. I realized there had been no investigation whatsoever, that none of her family were allowed to testify at her trial. What’s more, the district attorney involved in her case was in prison for bribery and extortion,” Van Tassel said.

Van Tassel described the deep scars Lucio’s case has left on her entire family. “It’s hard to imagine how traumatic a death sentence is for a family and the collateral damage it creates,” Van Tassel said. “Melissa’s family, and some of her children, felt so railroaded by the justice system, they didn’t trust anyone anymore.”

The State of Texas vs. Melissa is available to stream on Hulu.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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Supreme Court to Consider Death-Row Inmate’s Request For Hands-on Prayer

John Ramirez, a death-row inmate in Texas, has one last request: He wants his spiritual adviser, a Baptist pastor, to “lay hands on him” and recite vocal prayers during the execution. Prison officials have refused permission.

On Nov. 1, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in his case, hoping to find the delicate balance between vindicating the religious freedom afforded Ramirez and the discretion due to the officials responsible for putting him to death.

Whatever your views on the death penalty, there is no denying that Ramirez committed a truly horrifying crime.

In 2004, Pablo Castro, a father of 9, was working the night shift at the Times Market convenience store in Corpus Christi. Shortly before the store was due to close, Castro went to empty the garbage. He was confronted by Ramirez, who then stabbed him 29 times, stole $1.25 from Castro’s pockets, and left him to bleed to death in the parking lot.

Before the murder, Ramirez had spent 3 days drinking and using drugs. When he and two female companions ran out of drugs and money, they went driving in search of someone to rob so they could buy more drugs. Ramirez was on probation for a gun charge, and a warrant was out for his arrest at the time.

After murdering Castro, Ramirez went on to rob 2 other victims using the same knife. One of the victims was a young mother with her 2-year-old son in the back seat of her car. Ramirez fled to Mexico and evaded capture for 3 years before being caught, tried, convicted and sentenced to death for Castro’s murder in 2008.

Over the past 12 years, Ramirez has returned to court repeatedly, both at the state and federal levels. His execution has been stayed three times. The most recent stay was issued by the Supreme Court on Sept. 8, the day Ramirez was scheduled to be put to death.

The argument now is not over whether this murderer should be allowed to live, but the precise circumstances in which he dies. Like so many people facing the death sentence, Ramirez has found religion. Texas prison officials don’t have a problem with allowing Ramirez’s spiritual adviser, pastor Dana Moore, to be inside the death chamber at the time of the execution.

State-employed chaplains or outside spiritual advisers who satisfy certain screening requirements are allowed into the death chamber under current execution protocols. But the rules also say that any behavior by the spiritual adviser that prison officials determine “to be disruptive to the execution procedures shall be cause for immediate removal.” The policy is silent on whether advisers may pray audibly or touch inmates during execution. The prison insists that in this case it’s not acceptable.

Is that reasonable? Ramirez’s lawyers argue that Texas’ “method of execution” — namely preventing Moore from physically touching him and praying vocally at the time of execution — violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the free-exercise guarantee of the First Amendment.

RLUIPA bars government authorities from imposing “a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution” unless it can show that burden is the least-restrictive means of furthering a “compelling government interest.”

According to a 2015 decision by the Supreme Court, accommodations under RLUIPA must be made only for requests “sincerely based on a religious belief and not some other motivation.”

Religious-freedom advocacy groups have filed amicus briefs in support of Ramirez. Becket, a law group that successfully represented before the court the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s foster-care program, submitted its amicus brief to “explain that the presence of clergy at executions — and their ability to pray aloud for and touch the condemned — is an ancient religious practice that our Constitution and laws protect from arbitrary government interference.” Stanford Law professor Michael McConnell, considered one of the country’s foremost First Amendment scholars, assisted in the drafting of Becket’s brief.

Another religious-freedom group, Alliance Defending Freedom, asserts that “RLUIPA calls for strict scrutiny of governmental policies that substantially burden religious exercise, and even the execution chamber is not exempt from that demanding level of review.” Noted legal scholars, including professors Douglas Laycock and Helen Alvaré, have criticized Texas’ narrow interpretation of RLUIPA. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops have raised another consideration: the independent right under the First Amendment of religious entities to “minister to their congregants.”

While claiming not to support either Ramirez or Texas, the Biden administration argues that Ramirez is “likely to succeed (at least in part) on his RLUIPA challenge to Texas’ categorical ban on audible prayer and laying of hands by a spiritual adviser in the execution chamber.” It maintains that “somewhat more accommodating practices of other jurisdictions — including the federal government — suggest that similarly effective, but less restrictive, alternatives to unqualified bans” may exist. It recommends that the court remand the case for further proceedings in the lower courts. The solicitor general’s office has been granted time to participate during oral argument.

Texas makes several compelling points. First, the state’s execution protocols balance multiple interests, including “uniformity in executions to reduce the opportunity for errors, the safety and privacy of execution personnel, the rights of the inmate, and closure for the victim’s family and the community.”

An emotional amicus brief filed on behalf of Castro’s children specifically begs the court for the timely enforcement of Ramirez’s sentence to end “an ordeal that has denied peace and closure to Pablo Castro’s children for 17 years.”

Second, the state argues that Ramirez’s current request is motivated not by religious beliefs but instead by a desire for more delay. Chief Judge Priscilla Owen expressed similar concerns in her opinion concurring in a lower appellate court denial of a stay of execution. “Though I do not doubt the sincerity of Ramirez’s religious beliefs or those of his pastor, the shifting of Ramirez’s litigation posture indicates that the change in position is strategic and that delay is the goal.”

And, finally, the state contends that barring physical touch and vocal prayers at the moment of execution is the “least-restrictive means” of achieving the state’s compelling interests. Regardless of your position on the death penalty (I am not a supporter), it is in everyone’s interest that there are no more botched executions.

Does the religious liberty afforded Ramirez under federal law and the Constitution include accommodations in the death chamber that conflict with the protocols drafted by prison officials tasked with the serious task of execution? The answer should be clear, but it isn’t. Perhaps this is why the Supreme Court made the extraordinary decision to request full briefing and hold oral argument before issuing its opinion.

(source: ncregister.com)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Court won’t revive death sentence for South Carolina inmate

The Supreme Court has rejected a plea from South Carolina to reimpose the death penalty on a South Carolina inmate whose death sentence stood for two decades until a federal appeals court threw it out in August.

Chief Justice John Roberts did not comment Friday in denying the state’s request.

The order requires the state to conduct a new sentencing hearing for inmate Sammie Stokes, if it wants jurors to sentence him again to death. Otherwise, Stokes will spend the rest of his life in prison.

He was sentenced to death in 1999 for the rape and murder of 21-year-old Connie Snipes in Orangeburg County.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Death penalty being sought in Cesareo case

The death penalty will be sought for a Columbus man charged with instigating what evolved into a case of murder-for-hire.

Investigators say Abraham Jimenez Cesareo, 37, of 2207 Seventh St., hired a Chicago man to come to Columbus and physically harm 37-year-old Leobardo Rodriguez Flores. Cesareo hired Eliel Avelar because he was jealous the victim was dating his ex-girlfriend, according to a probable cause affidavit.

In Bartholomew Superior Court 1 Monday morning, defense attorney Joseph Lozano said his client was not prepared to accept either of the two plea agreements he had received.

When Judge James Worton said the matter would move ahead to a jury trial on Nov. 9, Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash announced he would seek the death penalty against Cesareo.

Nash’s decision will have a certain impact on the upcoming trial, the judge said. For example, a defendant must be represented by two attorneys when the death penalty is being sought in Indiana. One of the lawyers must have experience with a capital punishment case.

Both Nash and Lozano were called to the bench to speak privately with the judge. After the conference ended, Worton said he was not prepared to dismiss the original trial date at this time. However, the judge said he wants to see all parties back in his courtroom on Nov. 1 at 11 a.m. to decide how to proceed.

Avelar pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Flores, who was shot and killed on Feb. 26, 2020, in the parking lot of his employer, Tool Dynamics, located on South Marr Road.

While he accepted a plea agreement, Avelar will not be sentenced until he testifies in the cases of three defendants that include Cesareo.

The plea agreement stipulates Avelar would receive a 17½-year prison sentence if he truthfully testifies against his 3 co-defendants: Cesareo, Eladia Jacobo Ortiz and Esam Mohammed Abujoudeh.

Abujoudeh, 24, of Oak Forest, Illinois, is charged with battery resulting in serious bodily injury and obstruction of justice as a Level 6 felony. Ortiz, 35, is charged with aiding, inducing or causing murder. Both have change of plea hearings scheduled for January and trial dates tentatively set for February.

If Avelar does not testify or commits perjury, the judge can reject the plea agreement and order him to be tried on all eight felony counts he was charged with. If found guilty of all charges, he would likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

(source: therepublic.com)

ILLINOIS:

Another victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy identified

A North Carolina man who moved to Chicago was one of the victims of John Wayne Gacy, who was convicted of killing 33 young men and boys in the 1970s, authorities said Monday.

Francis Wayne Alexander would have been 21 or 22 years old when Gacy killed him sometime between early 1976 and early 1977, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said at a news conference in announcing the identification of Alexander’s remains.

In a statement, Alexander’s sister, Carolyn Sanders, thanked the sheriff’s office for giving the family some level of “closure.”

“It is hard, even 45 years later, to know the fate of our beloved Wayne,” Sanders wrote. “He was killed at the hands of a vile and evil man. Our hearts are heavy, and our sympathies go out to the other victims’ families. … We can now lay to rest what happened and move forward by honoring Wayne.”

Alexander’s remains were among 26 sets that police found in the crawl space under Gacy’s home just outside the city. 3 victims, meanwhile, were found buried on Gacy’s property and 4 others whom Gacy admitted killing were found in waterways south of Chicago.

In 2011, Dart’s office exhumed the remains of 8 victims, including Alexander, who had been buried without police knowing who they were. Dart called on anyone who had a male relative disappear in the Chicago area in the 1970s to submit DNA. That was the time when Gacy was luring young men and boys to his home to eventually kill them.

Within weeks, the sheriff’s office announced that it had identified one set of remains as those of William Bundy, a 19-year-old construction worker.

In 2017, the office identified a 2nd set as those of 16-year-old Jimmy Haakenson, who disappeared after he phoned his mother in Minnesota and told her that he was in Chicago.

The details of Alexander’s life in Chicago are sketchy. Born in North Carolina, he moved to New York and then on to Chicago, where he was married for approximately three months before he was divorced in 1975.

According to the sheriff’s office’s news release, the last known record of Alexander’s life was a traffic ticket he received in Chicago in January of 1976 — a year in which he earned little money. How he crossed paths with one of the most notorious serial killers in American history is a mystery, as authorities say all they know is that “Alexander lived in an area that was frequented by Gacy and where other identified victims had previously lived.”

The identification of Alexander came together when the sheriff’s department teamed up with a nonprofit called the DNA Doe Project, which uses genetic information to locate relatives of dead people who have not been identified. The organization compared the DNA profile from the unidentified victim’s remains to profiles on a genealogy website to find potential relatives. That led it to Alexander’s family, and Alexander’s mother and half-brother provided their DNA for comparison.

Between the genetic testing, financial records, post-mortem reports and other information, investigators were able to confirm that the remains were Alexander’s.

The submission of DNA from people who suspected Gacy might have killed their loved ones has helped police solve at least 11 cold cases of homicides that had nothing to do with Gacy, who was executed in 1994. It has also helped families find loved ones who while missing, were alive, including a man in Oregon who had no idea his family was looking for him. (source: Associated Press)

OKLAHOMA----impending executions

What we know about Oklahoma resuming executions for the 1st time since 2015

Starting Thursday, the state of Oklahoma has scheduled 7 execution dates for inmates on death row. It would the state's 1st execution in more than 6 years.

In 1977, Oklahoma was the 1st state to adopt lethal injection, through which an inmate is injected with a fatal mixture of drugs as its primary method for carrying out executions.

Who is scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma? What were they charged with?

Seven inmates are scheduled for execution at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester over the next several months. Their names and scheduled execution dates are:

•John Grant; Oct. 28, 2021; Convicted of murdering Gay Carter, a prison worker, in 1998.

•Julius Jones; Nov. 18, 2021; Convicted of murdering Paul Howell, an Edmond businessman, in 1999.

•Bigler Stouffer; Dec. 9, 2021; Convicted of murdering Linda Reaves, a Putnam City schoolteacher, in 1985.

•Wade Lay; Jan. 6, 2022; Convicted of murdering Kenneth Anderson, a bank security guard, in 2004.

•Donald Grant; Jan. 27, 2022; Convicted of murdering hotel employees Brenda McElyea and Suzette Smith in 2001.

•Gilbert Postelle; Feb. 17, 2022; Convicted of murdering James “Donnie” Swindle Jr., Amy Wright, Terry Smith and James Alderson in an Oklahoma City trailer park during 2005.

•James Coddington; Mar. 10, 2022; Convicted of murdering Albert Troy Hale in 1997.

Grant denied clemency: Executions set to resume in Oklahoma as Pardon and Parole Board denies clemency for John Marion Grant

The case of Julius Jones has attracted nationwide interest in recent years. No legal defense has disputed the guilt of the other 6 inmates, but Jones has long maintained his innocence.

Legal organizations, social justice groups and celebrity figures have voiced support for Jones, and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended to Gov. Kevin Stitt in September that Jones' sentence be "commuted," or reduced.

Botched execution of Charles Warner, Clayton Lockett led to state hiatus

The last time Oklahoma executed a death row inmate was Charles Warner in January 2015. Warner and Clayton Lockett, executed in 2014, both died by what were widely criticized as "botched" lethal injections, in which the inmates were not administered the correct mixture of drugs to bring about a quick and humane death.

Since adopting lethal injection, Oklahoma has followed a 3-step protocol for executions:

1.Midazolam, a fast-acting and short-lasting sedative

2.Vecuronium bromide, a paralytic agent used to stop breathing

3.Potassium chloride, a medication that stops the heart

Lockett notably moaned, struggled and writhed in pain during his failed execution, a procedure that took more than 40 minutes. Medical officials later said Lockett had not been thoroughly sedated.

Starting Oct. 28, the state of Oklahoma is scheduling the execution dates for 7 death row inmates, after controversies over botched lethal injections brought a halt to the practice for 6 years.

After Warner's execution, investigators discovered Warner had not been administered the proper drugs. The state's supplier of lethal injection drugs had replaced the heart-stopping drug potassium chloride with potassium acetate, the wrong chemical.

Upon this discovery, the state halted all scheduled lethal injections, including that of death row inmate Richard Glossip, who received a stay of his execution from then-Governor Mary Fallin hours before he was scheduled to die.

The controversy worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court after Glossip and 20 other death row inmates sued in federal court, arguing against the constitutionality of the sedative midazolam. A divided Supreme Court ruled that the state's drug mixture for lethal injections did not violate the "cruel and unusual punishment" amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Glossip, who also has long maintained his innocence for the murder that placed him on death row, has exhausted his appeals but has gained support from bipartisan lawmakers for an independent reinvestigation into his case.

Oklahoma is 1 of 27 states with the death penalty

Since the hiatus in 2015, Oklahoma has explored alternative methods of administering the death penalty.

Fallin signed legislation allowing nitrogen gas to be used, if lethal injection is rendered unfeasible. After struggling for years to design a proper device and protocol for the use of nitrogen gas, Oklahoma abandoned the idea in 2020 and reverted back to lethal injection, once another supplier for the drugs had been reportedly secured.

Oklahoma is one of only three states (the others being Mississippi and Utah) that allow for firing squads to be used as an alternative method, although this has not been done in the state for any of its executions since 1915.

The 26 other states that retain the death penalty are:

•Alabama

•Arizona

•Arkansas

•California

•Florida

•Georgia

•Idaho

•Indiana

•Kansas

•Kentucky

•Louisiana

•Mississippi

•Missouri

•Montana

•Nebraska

•Nevada

•North Carolina

•Ohio

•Oregon

•Pennsylvania

•South Carolina

•South Dakota

•Tennessee

•Texas

•Utah

•Wyoming

Oklahoma ranks the highest per capita in execution rates, with a rate of 2.83 executions per every 100,000 residents, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The state also once held the No. 1 ranking in the previous decade for its imprisoned population. Since passing some criminal justice reform initiatives in 2018, Oklahoma decreased its prison population by 4.7% to an incarceration rate of 639 per 100,000 residents, according to Department of Justice statistics. It now ranks 2nd, behind only Louisiana at 680 per 100,000 people.

(source: oklahoman.com)

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Oklahoma Seeks to Revive Machinery of Death Despite Unanswered Legal Questions

Today, an Oklahoma District Court held a hearing on the preliminary injunction to halt upcoming executions scheduled from October 2021-February 2022 for 4 people on the state’s death row.

In response to this news, Paul O’Brien, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, said:

“There is no humane way to kill a person – as Oklahoma has made abundantly clear. All executions must halt immediately as a 1st step towards full abolition. The Oklahoma Attorney General is pushing for the state to kill again, before a federal court decides the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection protocol. Oklahoma still has time to do the right thing and reverse course by rescinding the execution dates.”

Kristina Roth, Senior Advocate, Criminal Justice Program at Amnesty International USA, added:

“It is alarming to see Oklahoma continue to pursue executions in the midst of unsettled and serious legal questions about their constitutionality. These executions must be halted to allow the courts to rule on the claims raised in the lethal injection lawsuit as well as religious objectiors claims raised today. Regardless of what the court may find in this case, no method of execution is compatible with human rights, and the only solution is to end the death penalty altogether.”

Background

Earlier this year, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor requested for the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set seven execution dates from October 2021 – March 2022, starting with that of John Grant, which the Court scheduled for October 28. Amnesty International holds that the death penalty violates human rights, in particular the right to life and the right to live free from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and calls for its abolition unconditionally. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 marked a historically low year for executions in recent US history. In the six years Oklahoma has gone without an execution, five states have abolished the death penalty, bringing the total number of abolitionist states to 23. However, Oklahoma’s actions stand in stark contrast to the USA’s movement towards abolition. John Grant, the sixth of nine siblings, grew up in poverty, and experienced violence, neglect and abuse throughout his childhood. He was sent to a juvenile institution at age 12 for stealing clothes for his younger siblings. The state juvenile system where he was held was later exposed to be an environment of pervasive, systemic neglect and abuse of children. Due to the ineffective assistance of counsel by his attorneys, the jury in John Grant’s trial never heard the full extent of the abuse he experienced as a child nor about the long-term, personal relationship between him and his victim. 2 jurors have provided affidavits stating that they might have considered life instead of a death sentence if this evidence was provided during the sentencing.

The next scheduled execution is that of Julius Jones on November 18, who is in the midst of a clemency hearing and is fighting his execution based on innocence claims. These executions were prematurely scheduled and come months before a federal court will hold a trial on the state’s lethal injection protocol set for 2022.

While no manner of execution is safe or humane, Oklahoma has a history of so-called botched executions. In 2014, Clayton Locket died of a heart attack nearly 50 minutes after his execution began. In 2015, corrections officials used the wrong drug to execute Charles Warner, whose final words were “My body is on fire.” Both were Black men The execution of Richard Glossip, a white man, in 2015 was halted at the last minute when the executioners discovered they were about to again use the wrong drug and the governor called off the execution. These actions prompted an ongoing lawsuit challenging the state’s execution protocol to determine whether it violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception – regardless of who is accused, the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution – and calls for abolition once and for all.

(source: Amnesty International USA)

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Oklahoma's 1st execution since 2015 set for Thursday

Oklahoma’s 1st execution since January 2015 is set for Thursday, pending any last-minute action.

John Marion Grant, 60, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Grant received a death sentence for the 1998 killing of Gay Carter, a 58-year-old prison cafeteria worker, at the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy, where he was serving sentences for 4 armed robberies. An Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board unanimously rejected clemency for Grant in 2014 and another board rejected clemency earlier this month with a 3-2 vote.

Court documents state Grant dragged Carter into a mop closet and stabbed her 16 times with a shank after she took him off a kitchen job at the prison.

Defense attorneys had argued Grant received ineffective counsel as his lawyers didn’t present mitigating evidence, such as his difficult childhood.

Grant’s execution date was set for Oct. 28, 2015, before he and 2 other death row inmates received a last-minute stay of execution from then-Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin because the state received a different chemical for its 3-drug execution cocktail used at the time.

His stay came on the heels of several problematic state executions.

Clayton Lockett was sentenced to death in 2000 after being convicted of murder and several other charges after he and accomplices sexually assaulted 2 teenage women, one of whom Lockett shot before she was buried alive. He was scheduled for lethal injection on April 24, 2014. A doctor deemed Lockett unconscious but it took 43 minutes for him to die from the state’s 3-drug cocktail of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The Department of Public Safety’s investigation ultimately found that the IV in Lockett’s groin came loose and prolonged his death.

Then-U.S. President Barack Obama and the United Nations scrutinized the bungled execution. Oklahoma reconsidered its injection protocols in the aftermath and the state’s prison system director and the OSP warden quit after appearing before a federal grand jury.

Lockett’s brother filed a suit alleging torture and other claims before a 3-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit in 2016 called it an “innocent misadventure” in upholding a decision to dismiss the lawsuit.

Arguments over Oklahoma’s three-drug cocktail led to more scrutiny. The state hadn’t used midazolam in prior executions before administering it to Lockett to render him unconscious before giving him the other 2 drugs.

News-Capital staff witnessed the January 2015 lethal injection of Charles Warner that appeared to go off without any problems. However, it was later found the state used a different drug at that time that wasn't approved in previous protocols. A grand jury reported Oklahoma’s then-general counsel, Steve Mullins, told prison officials to go forward with another death row inmate’s execution, that of Richard Glossip — despite receiving potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride — the same mixture used in Warner’s execution. However, that's when Fallin intervened.

A grand jury recommended looking into using nitrogen gas for executions — which state officials announced in 2018 was being planned before resuming executions.

But Gov. Kevin Stitt and then-attorney general Mike Hunter announced in February 2020 the state would resume lethal injections after gassing protocols took too long to develop and a new supply of lethal drugs was procured.

Oklahoma is set to use the same 3-drug combination it used in Lockett’s 2014 execution.

Midazolam renders the inmate unconscious, then vecuronium bromide is administered as a muscle relaxant, and potassium chloride stops the heart.

(source: mcalesternews.com)

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Federal judge to hear arguments from 5 death row inmates in Oklahoma

A federal judge will hear arguments on Monday from attorneys for 5 death row inmates in Oklahoma.

The inmates want their execution dates to be delayed pending the results of an upcoming trial in February.

One of those inmates is John Grant, who is scheduled to be put to death later this week.

John Marion Grant was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Gay Carter, a kitchen supervisor at an Oklahoma prison.

At the time of the murder, Grant was serving a prison sentence for robbery.

Court documents say that Grant stabbed Carter 16 times in the back at the Dick Conner Correctional Center.

His execution was initially scheduled for Dec. 4, 2014, but was stayed following a review of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol. Woman, suspect killed during hostage situation in Tulsa.

His execution is now set for Oct. 28, 2021.

Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied Grant’s request for clemency.

Grant is 1 of 5 death row inmates, including Julius Jones, who are asking a federal judge to delay their executions.

Lawyers for the inmates want the judge to either uphold an agreement with former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter to not hold executions while that lawsuit is pending. Otherwise, they are asking for a stay of executions since the lawsuit challenges whether Oklahoma’s execution protocol is constitutional.

(source: KFOR news)

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Federal judge rules Oklahoma can move forward with 5 lethal injections

A federal judge on Monday ruled that Oklahoma could proceed with the lethal injections of 5 death row inmates, with the earliest execution scheduled for this week.

Judge Stephen Friot denied a motion for a preliminary injunction that 5 Oklahoma inmates were seeking, The Associated Press reported.

The executions of Julius Jones, John Marion Grant, Donald A. Grant, Gilbert Ray Postelle and Wade Greely Lay have now been cleared to proceed, with the lethal injections scheduled to take place over the next 6 months.

John Marion Grant, 60, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Thursday for the murder of a prison cafeteria worker in 1998. It will be Oklahoma's first lethal injection in more than 6 years.

The five inmates were removed from a federal lawsuit seeking to challenge Oklahoma's three-drug lethal injection as they did not offer alternative execution methods, the AP reported. THe attorneys representing the five inmates who were removed said they would be appealing Friot's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

“We will be asking the 10th Circuit to review Judge Friot’s decision and to issue a stay for Mr. Grant’s execution, as well as for the executions scheduled in the coming months,” assistant public defender Dale Baich, who is representing Jones, said.

“The district court acknowledged there are serious questions about the drug protocol used by Oklahoma and that it could cause unconstitutional pain and suffering. With the trial on that question scheduled for February 2022, executions should not go forward," Baich added.

The AP noted that 26 out of the 32 inmates also on the lawsuit did offer alternative methods of execution, with 19 choosing firing squad as an alternative.

Jones' case has garnered widespread attention, having been featured in the ABC documentary series "The Last Defense." Jones was convicted of killing a businessman during a carjacking in 1999, a crime for which he maintains he is innocent of.

As The Innocence Project has argued, Jones had an alibi for where he was during the time of the carjacking, he does not match the description of the suspect who was only seen by 1 witness and multiple people have said in sworn affidavits that another man who claims to have only been the getaway driver confessed the killing.

Jones is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 18.

(source: thehill.com)

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Julius Jones among 5 death row inmates set to receive lethal injections in Oklahoma

A federal judge in Oklahoma ruled on Monday the state can move forward with scheduled lethal injections for 5 death row inmates, including Julius Jones, whose case has drawn international attention and who is scheduled to die on November 28.

Judge Stephen Friot denied a motion for a preliminary injunction sought by the 5 inmates, paving the way for the state to proceed with seven lethal injections scheduled over the next 6 months.

The state is scheduled to conduct its 1st execution in more than 6 years on Thursday when John Marion Grant, 60, is set to receive a lethal injection for the 1998 killing of a prison cafeteria worker.

District Attorney David Prater on Monday, October 4, 2021, filed a motion to remove Kelly Doyle and Andrew Luck from the clemency hearing for Julius Jones, alleging they are biased.

Mr Grant, Mr Jones and 3 other death row inmates were removed from a federal lawsuit challenging the state's 3-drug lethal injection protocol because none of the 5 offered an alternative method of execution.

A trial on that challenge is scheduled before Mr Friot in February.

"The case is complete in this court as to these 5 plaintiffs," Mr Friot said.

26 of the 32 Oklahoma death row inmates who were on the original challenge provided the court with an alternative method of execution, including the use of different drug combinations or firing squad.

According to a table included in the judge's order, 19 of the 32 inmates proposed firing squad as an alternative method of execution.

Firing squad is currently one of several execution methods authorised under Oklahoma law.

Attorneys for the 5 inmates vowed to immediately appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

"We will be asking the 10th Circuit to review Judge Friot's decision and to issue a stay for Mr Grant's execution, as well as for the executions scheduled in the coming months," assistant public defender Dale Baich, one of Mr Jones' attorneys, said.

"The district court acknowledged there are serious questions about the drug protocol used by Oklahoma and that it could cause unconstitutional pain and suffering.

"With the trial on that question scheduled for February 2022, executions should not go forward."

A spokeswoman for Attorney General John O'Connor declined to comment on Mr Friot's ruling.

Mr Jones still could be granted clemency by Governor Kevin Stitt if a majority of the state's 5-member Pardon and Parole Board recommends it.

The panel, which already recommended Mr Jones' sentence be commuted to life in prison, is scheduled to consider his clemency request on Tuesday.

Mr Jones' case drew national attention after being featured in 2018 on the ABC television documentary series The Last Defence.

Since then, his case has been highlighted by reality television star Kim Kardashian West and numerous professional athletes with ties to Oklahoma who have appealed for clemency.

Oklahoma announced last year it planned to resume executions using a 3-drug lethal injection protocol, and that a source for the drugs has been secured.

The 3 drugs are midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

Oklahoma once had one of the nation's busiest death chambers, but a moratorium on capital punishment has been in place since 2015 following three consecutive flawed executions.

The lead plaintiff in the case, Richard Glossip, was just hours away from being executed in September 2015 when prison officials realised they received the wrong lethal drug.

It was later learned the same wrong drug had been used to execute an inmate in January 2015.

The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney before dying 43 minutes into his lethal injection, and after the state's prisons chief ordered executioners to stop.

(source: 9news.com.au)

CALIFORNIA:

TikTok star pleads not guilty to double-murder shooting in San Diego high-rise

Hours before killing his newly estranged wife, a San Diego man surreptitiously installed a listening device on his 5-year-old daughter’s tablet device, and when he heard his wife and another man talking, he went to her home and shot them to death, a prosecutor said in court Monday.

Then Ali Abulaban, still armed, picked up his daughter from school, Deputy Dist. Atty. Taren Brast said.

Those details were among several revealed during the San Diego County Superior Court arraignment for Abulaban, who pleaded not guilty to 2 counts of murder as well as special circumstance allegations of multiple killings.

Brast said outside court that Abulaban, 29, is a TikTok star known as JinnKid, with more than 940,000 followers on the social media app. His account features comedy skits and impersonations of the character Tony Montana from the 1983 film “Scarface.”

The charges and special allegations allow prosecutors to pursue the death penalty if Abulaban is convicted. The district attorney’s office has not announced whether it plans to seek the death penalty or life in prison without parole if the defendant is found guilty. Such decisions are usually announced after a preliminary hearing has been held.

Abulaban’s attorney did not comment on the allegations during the hearing.

Police identified the victims Monday as Ana Abulaban, 28, of San Diego and Rayburn Cadenas Barron, 29, of National City.

About 2 dozen family members and friends of the two victims packed the courtroom. Several of them sobbed as Brast shared details about the killings.

The shooting happened just before 3 p.m. Thursday in Ana Abulaban’s apartment on the 35th floor of the Spire San Diego high-rise, on Island Avenue in East Village.

Brast said Ali Abulaban confessed to detectives and accused his wife of cheating, although the prosecutor said she believes Barron was a friend.

According to Brast, Ana Abulaban had asked her husband to move out Oct. 18. He checked into a hotel.

3 days later, Brast said, Ali Abulaban sneaked back into the apartment and trashed it while his wife was gone. He also installed the app on his daughter’s iPad, left it charging in a bedroom and took off.

Hours later, Abulaban was listening to the app when he heard his wife and a man talking and giggling, Brast said, and he raced back to the high-rise. Security camera video showed him running out of the elevator to the apartment.

Brast said Abulaban shot Barron three times before shooting his wife in her head. Abulaban then called his mother and confessed, Brast said.

After he picked up his daughter, he called police about 3:10 p.m. as he drove on State Route 94. They arrested him 45 minutes later on State Route 15 near Interstate 805. His daughter was in the vehicle.

Police said Monday that family was caring for the girl, who was not present during the shooting.

According to Brast, Abulaban has a history of domestic violence. His wife called police last month and reported that her husband had pushed her, causing minor injuries. She planned to file a restraining order.

Judge Kimberlee Lagotta ordered Abulaban jailed without bail. The judge also issued a protective order that requires Abulaban to stay away from his daughter.

According to a 2019 news release, the Virginia native was a singer — a career that began when he was 14 — before he turned to social media, on which he focused on celebrity voice impressions. He has also starred in short films inspired by “Scarface.” The news release described him as a rising star.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

USA:

Advocates hope Supreme Court case will expand religious rights on death row

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether inmates have the right to specific religious rites in the death chamber.

Domineque Ray had a last request before the state of Alabama took his life in February 2019. The Muslim man, convicted of killing a 15-year-old girl in 1995, wanted an imam beside him as he was put to death.

But Ray's request was denied — because the prison in Atmore, Alabama, only had a Christian chaplain on staff — and he was executed in isolation.

Just a month after Ray's execution, Patrick Murphy, a Buddhist man on death row in Texas asked to have a Buddhist chaplain in the execution chamber. But the state only had Christian and Muslim clergy on staff.

This time, the Supreme Court agreed to take up the issue, temporarily sparing Murphy's life in the process. Murphy is still on death row.

Religious liberty advocates cried foul, citing religious discrimination over the disparate treatments of the men of different faiths.

The 2 years that have followed have seen courts and states embroiled in conflicts over the rights of incarcerated people on death row to spiritual care, and how it's administered.

On Nov. 1, the Supreme Court will hear the case of John Henry Ramirez, who is requesting his pastor be allowed not just to be in the execution chamber but also to touch him and pray out loud with him.

Legal experts are looking to what could be a sweeping ruling with the potential to smooth out the differences in inconsistent execution practices across the country, once and for all.

"If the Supreme Court rules the right way, it could have a very expansive impact on how they deal with these issues," said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a religious freedom and civil liberties nonprofit on the front lines of the legal battle.

In a concurring opinion on the stay in the case of Murphy, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in March 2019 instructed states either to allow clergy of all faiths into the execution chamber or to prohibit them all to avoid the issue of religious discrimination.

Texas opted to prohibit, announcing in April of that year that it would bar clergy from the execution chamber. Alabama followed suit later in 2019. But, as prison officials would soon learn, prohibiting spiritual care entirely created problems for Texas, opening the state up to religious discrimination lawsuits.

"Equality of deprivation is a false equality," Chris Pagliarella, legal counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a law firm that has argued for clergy access before the Supreme Court. "Both the first amendment and civil rights laws grant an affirmative right to being able to exercise your faith in prison when it can be done so consistent with the safety of others."

Texas did away with its clergy ban in April 2021 without explaining what prompted the change. But after a wave of death row stay requests in the 2 years following its decision in Murphy v. Collier, the Supreme Court has now been tasked with deciding to what extent clergy should be included as incarcerated people are about to be put to death, including whether they can incant prayers out loud, touch their subjects, or anoint them with oil.

In September 2021, two Texans on death row had their executions suspended on the grounds that their religious rights were being violated. Those men were Ruben Gutierrez, who requested a Catholic chaplain be present with him, and Ramirez, whose case will be argued before the Supreme Court soon.

A 3rd, Willie Smith III, came to an agreement with Alabama earlier in September in a victory for religious liberty advocates. To avoid his lawsuit going to court, Alabama will allow Smith to have his pastor hold his hand, anoint his head with oil, and pray with him at the beginning of the execution.

All of these men's appeals rely heavily on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which specifically mandates, "No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution ... unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person— (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest."

But trying to assess whether Texas is placing a substantial burden on Ramirez's religious exercise "in the least restrictive means" is difficult, experts say.

"So long as the death penalty is constitutional, states have a compelling interest in carrying the executions out," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that doesn't take a stance on the legality of capital punishment but is critical of its administration. "At some point, the right to exercise religion is overcome by the states' interest in carrying out the execution. The question that the Supreme Court has the opportunity to answer is, what's that point?"

Texas argues that having a pastor in the chamber and letting him touch Ramirez as they pray together could raise security concerns. Religious liberty advocates say that claim is ridiculous.

"I've been in a prison and represented people. Before you go in that door, you almost have to go down without any clothes on, they do such a good job," Whitehead said. "You can't get in that door of the prison chamber, again, they have security devices, any of that is a false argument."

"It saddens me and it angers me that we as a nation, our government acting in our name, seems to have totally lost its way in terms of common human decency," Sister Barbara Battista told the American Independent Foundation. Battista, a Catholic nun from Indiana who ministered to 2 men in their final moments during the Trump administration's end-of-term killing spree of 13 executions, told the American Independent Foundation, "To deny a person in their last moments of life another human being who's there not as part of the killing machine just seems such an abuse of power."

Battista, having been in the actual execution chamber twice, similarly couldn't fathom how it would be risky to have a spiritual adviser present.

"The U.S. marshal is there, the executioner is there, there's a warden's representative — at least in the federal system, there are three other people in that room — I don't understand what is meant by a security risk," she said. "What in the world could you possibly do?"

A member of the Sisters of Providence based near Terre Haute, the site of a penitentiary where federal executions are carried out, Battista says she has seen the importance of allowing clergy into the room firsthand.

When she ministered to William LeCroy, whom the Trump administration executed in 2020, she said she could discern the comfort he and his family felt in his final moments, telling the American Independent Foundation:

They have been incarcerated and most of them in isolation, have not any human contact except maybe their correctional officers or a medical person. No physical touch for all those years, and then to be ushered into this very tiny room, strapped down on a table … legs strapped down, shoulders strapped down, chest strapped down, and there are three other people in the room, if you don't count the clergyperson, there to make sure you're successfully killed. I can't imagine how isolating that must be. How dehumanizing that must feel.

To have a clergyperson there at least recognizes, this is another human being, this person has a relationship with their creator, however they name: Allah, Yahweh, God, Holy One, mystery, however they name that — the fact that they have a higher power, that they recognize that there's something beyond our human life, and to have the comfort and consolation of their faith of whatever denomination, of whatever tradition — to me, that is at least a shred of decency in a horrendous, awfully violent, highly orchestrated process.

(source: americanindependent.com)

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Pope Francis has shown the U.S. a new path for ending the death penalty—for good.

Last year, an unprecedented spate of executions by the U.S. federal government—ordered and administered by then-president Donald J. Trump and his Catholic attorney general, William Barr—claimed the lives of 12 men and one woman. It also exposed many of the moral concerns and systemic breakdowns endemic to the use of the death penalty.

Aside from being an obvious affront to those who respect human life, these killings ended a deepening consensus against the federal use of the death penalty. Before Daniel Lewis Lee’s execution on July 14, 2020, it had been 17 years since the federal government had last carried out an execution. This de facto moratorium on executions lasted through all of President Barack Obama’s time in office and most of the administration of George W. Bush. In other words, there was nothing to necessitate the Trump administration’s pursuit of executions outside of its own thirst for vengeance.

There was nothing to necessitate the Trump administration’s pursuit of executions outside of its own thirst for vengeance.

At the same time, the death penalty in the United States last year was in a period of unusual quiet. The Covid-19 pandemic led to a historic 10-month lull in executions by state governments, a strange silver lining to lockdowns and restrictions, and state death sentencing rates also dropped. By the end of 2020, a total of 22 U.S. states had formally abolished the death penalty, three more were under governor-declared execution moratoria, and another 10 hadn’t carried out an execution in at least a decade. Nationally, the usage and popularity of capital punishment were both on the decline.

Unfortunately, the lifting of Covid restrictions this year meant that some states felt “safe” to resume executions—the irony here is inescapable—and several jurisdictions began setting execution dates. Texas, a state notorious for its use of the death penalty, was the first to break the hiatus, executing Quintin Jones on May 19 and later this year executing John Hummel and Rick Rhoades. The next state was Missouri, which executed Ernest Johnson on Oct. 5 despite his attorney’s argument that he was intellectually disabled, objections from racial justice advocates and a plea for clemency from Pope Francis. Now several other states, including some that have not carried out executions in many years, have launched efforts to restart them. These regressive actions bear an eerie resemblance to the federal government’s relentless push toward executions in 2020.

The lifting of Covid restrictions this year meant that some states felt “safe” to resume executions.

In some of the federal cases, like that of Mr. Lee, the victims’ families strongly opposed the government’s decision to execute. Others were rife with evidence of racial bias, including the execution of Navajo citizen Lezmond Mitchell, which the federal government ordered despite objections from the Navajo Nation. Moreover, a disturbing number of those executed suffered from severe mental or emotional impairments, including Wesley Ira Purkey, whose dementia had progressed to the point that he had no understanding of why he was being executed; and Lisa Montgomery, whose lawyers argued that she had “brain damage, severe mental illness, and suffered a lifetime of sexual torture.” All three were executed, by order of the federal government, in Terre Haute, Ind.

The executions also raised serious health and safety concerns, with several ultimately being blamed for Covid-19 outbreaks among staff and execution witnesses at the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute. And there were legal questions about the legitimacy of the federal government’s lethal injection protocol and other procedural matters (2 of the executions went through after the government’s death warrants had expired).

At the state level this year, there have been moves in Arizona, South Carolina and other states to reinstitute antiquated execution methods like electrocution, firing squad and the gas chamber, as lethal injection drugs have become harder to access. (Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly refusing to sell such drugs to states for the purposes of executions.) So far, none of these barbaric protocols have been put to use, but that they are beng considered shows the determination of certain states to resume executions.

There has been, however, a bright spot in 2021. In March, Virginia joined the ranks of states that have repealed death penalty laws, becoming the first Southern state to do so. Virginia’s abolition was a sign of a growing national awareness of the linkage between capital punishment and the U.S. histories of slavery, lynching and systemic racism. To the abolition movement, the victory brought a renewed hope that future Southern death penalty repeals might soon be on the horizon.

Keeping pressure on the Biden administration

On Oct. 3, 2020, Pope Francis released “Fratelli Tutti,” his encyclical on social friendship. Though the encyclical touches on numerous issues facing society and the church, the section cementing the church’s opposition to the death penalty stands apart in its unflinching certitude: “There can be no stepping back from this position” (No. 263).

A year later, the church in the Unites States would do well to unify around the prophetic call in “Fratelli Tutti” for the abolition of capital punishment, and to advance in practical ways Pope Francis’ vision for a justice that upholds human dignity, hope and healing. “Fratelli Tutti” may not have tempered the federal government’s bloodlust last year, but it has inspired and animated people of good will in their advocacy toward an end to state-sanctioned killing.

Indeed, when Virginia abolished the death penalty, the state’s Catholic bishops celebrated the repeal with a statement quoting “Fratelli Tutti,” affirming that “the firm rejection of the death penalty shows to what extent it is possible to recognize the inalienable dignity of every human being and to accept that he or she has a place in this universe” (No. 269).

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also cited the encyclical in one of its many appeals to the Trump administration to reverse course on the federal execution spree. Individual bishops, too, quoted “Fratelli Tutti”; for example, Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis urged Catholics and people of good will to oppose the federal government’s “perpetuation of a culture of death.”

By the time the federal executions ended in January 2020, mere days before President Biden’s inauguration, the Catholic call for death penalty abolition in the U.S. had never resounded with such force. Thousands of Catholics had decried the killings through petitions and letter-writing. Still more had prayed and publicly lamented online through a series of 13 online prayer vigils hosted by Catholic Mobilizing Network, which featured voices like those of Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, D.C., and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., chairman of the U.S.C.C.B.’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

The chorus of Catholic voices in opposition to capital punishment has not lessened with the new administration. Though Mr. Biden is seen as the first U.S. president to have campaigned on a platform including opposition to capital punishment, it should be noted that his stances on issues of criminal justice have evolved over the life of his career. In 1994, for example, he sponsored the notorious crime bill that expanded federal capital offenses and became widely criticized for exacerbating mass incarceration.

Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis urged Catholics and people of good will to oppose the federal government’s “perpetuation of a culture of death.”

Not content with the new administration’s adopting a de facto moratorium on the death penalty which is as toothless as the one before President Trump’s revival of executions, Catholic advocates have been urging Mr. Biden to fulfill his campaign promise to work toward dismantling the federal death penalty. Nearly 10,000 have signed a Catholic Mobilizing Network national petition calling on Mr. Biden to declare an official moratorium on federal executions, commute the sentences of every person on federal death row and advocate to end the death penalty through legislation in Congress and the states. Signatories include the renowned death penalty abolitionist Helen Prejean, C.S.J., and other Catholic religious and lay leaders from across the nation. Mr. Biden is also scheduled to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Oct. 29, his first trip there as president, and their conversation may well include the church’s renewed opposition to the death penalty.

In July, the Biden administration took a first step toward dismantling the federal death penalty when Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a temporary moratorium on federal executions. But Sister Prejean said of the decision, “While a moratorium on federal executions has symbolic value, we’ve seen the danger of half-measures that do not fully address the fundamental brokenness of our death penalty system.”

Mr. Biden is also scheduled to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Oct. 29, his first trip there as president, and their conversation may well include the church’s renewed opposition to the death penalty.

I could not agree more. History has shown us that a lukewarm approach to eradicating the death penalty is tantamount to leaving the door wide open to future government killing sprees. Mr. Biden promised us a permanent end to the federal death penalty; he should deliver on it. As Sister Prejean says, “More is required.”

Given the opportunities—and vulnerabilities—currently before us, I believe there has never been a more critical time for Catholics and people of good will to unite around our shared call to “work with determination,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church now says, for the death penalty’s abolition worldwide.

It goes without saying that our faith does not conform to any one political party, which makes Catholics critical bridge-builders in the work of abolition. It is the role of Catholics to proclaim a consistently pro-life ethic—one that applies as much to the guilty as it does to the innocent.

A new vision of justice

It is also important to note that “Fratelli Tutti” does much more than simply fortify the church’s teachings on the “inadmissibility” of the death penalty. It offers a vision for what justice in its broadest sense can look like: a way of being in relationship with one another that unconditionally upholds human dignity and offers opportunities for healing and transformation. Catholics should find comfort and inspiration in the vision of justice that Pope Francis imagines.

In such a world, legal systems would center the people and relationships impacted by crime and harm, rather than solely focusing on the laws or rules that are broken. The voices and needs of victims would be heard, and the dehumanizing rhetoric about those who cause harm would be silenced. No longer would the word “justice” be tragically mistaken for a method of retribution and punishment. Nor would forgiveness be seen as a sign of weakness, or incompatible with accountability, but as a creative act of possibility and grace.

“It is a patient effort to seek truth and justice,” Pope Francis writes, “to honor the memory of victims and to open the way, step by step, to a shared hope stronger than the desire for vengeance” (“Fratelli Tutti,” No. 226).

Catholics can and should allow “Fratelli Tutti” to serve as a springboard for cultivating approaches to justice where a Gospel-centered view of right relationship is the ultimate goal.

May our church be increasingly emboldened and strengthened by this prophetic invitation, and may we recommit to building up systems of justice that evoke Jesus’ reconciling way. The collapse of the U.S. system of capital punishment is visible on such a horizon.

(source: America Magazine)

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The First Step in Overhauling Criminal Justice? Abolish the Death Penalty----"Abolishing the death penalty will not change the ideology of the current Supreme Court. Rather, it will take state and local officials and advocates to abolish," said Rachel A. Van Cleave, a professor of law and former dean at Golden Gate University School of Law.

Since the killing of George Floyd by a police officer, many changes to criminal justice have been proposed and some have been enacted. However, none of these reforms will be meaningful unless and until we require the government to dismantle the laws and procedures that implement the death penalty, an inherently biased and horrific practice. The fact that the federal government and 27 states still have the death penalty reveals an attitude that is diametrically counter to the mindset necessary to end mass incarceration.

Before discussing the death penalty cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, consider the backdrop of last year’s Supreme Court term. From July 2020 through January 2021, the federal government went on an execution spree. After more than 17 years of no federal executions, the federal government executed 13 people in 6 months. Before this, Lewis Jones Jr. was executed on March 18, 2003 after President Bush refused to commute his sentence despite compelling evidence that he had been exposed to nerve gas while serving this country in the Gulf War.

This execution spree raised dozens of troubling issues, ranging from the health risks faced by lawyers, families of victims, and members of the press who traveled to witness the executions during a global pandemic—indeed, 2 people executed had COVID-19—to claims about the pain the drug pentobarbital was causing those executed—pain that is similar to being suffocated or drowned—to the federal government brushing aside procedural rules, to substantive questions about the mental illness or intellectual disability of some of those executed, concerns about juror bias, and claims of prosecutorial misconduct. Despite these serious questions, out of the 13 cases, the Supreme Court overturned stays that had been granted by lower courts in seven of these cases, as part of their “shadow docket.” The government claimed the need for emergency review, escaping full briefing and oral argument. The Supreme Court complied.

As Justice Sonia Sotomayor poignantly pointed out in her dissent in United States v. Higgs:

“Over the past 6 months, this Court has repeatedly sidestepped its usual deliberative processes, often at the Government’s request, allowing it to push forward with an unprecedented, breakneck timetable of executions. With due judicial consideration, some of the Government’s arguments may have prevailed and some or even many of these executions may have ultimately been allowed to proceed. Others may not have been. Either way, the Court should not have sanctioned these executions without resolving these critical issues. The stakes were simply too high.”

With the Supreme Court being this dismissive when people face execution by the government, how can we possibly be confident that reforms like abolishing qualified immunity for police officers who kill, or prohibiting racial profiling will truly repair our system? If the federal government and the 27 states that still employ this practice are not sufficiently outraged by this execution spree to work to end the death penalty, do we really think we can end mass incarceration?

Just 1 week before the high court opened the current term, it denied an emergency request for a stay of execution by Rick Allan Rhoades who was executed in Texas. His lawyers were trying to investigate how the jury had been selected and whether Black prospective jurors had been improperly excluded. Rhoades was the 3rd person to be executed by the state of Texas this year, and the 6th person to be executed in the U.S. this year.

The day the Supreme Court opened the current term, Tuesday, Oct. 5, it denied a request to stop the execution of Ernest Lee Johnson. His lawyers wanted a hearing on Johnson’s intellectual disability since the court has held that it violates the Eighth Amendment to execute someone who is intellectually disabled. The state of Missouri executed Johnson.

The 1st death penalty case in which the Court heard oral argument this term, was the U.S. v. Tsarnaev case, the so-called Boston bomber. The bombs killed 3 people and injured 280. The First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the death sentence finding that the trial court had not adequately screened jurors for potential bias following the pervasive news coverage. The appellate court also held that the trial court should have allowed Tsarnaev’s lawyers to present mitigating evidence regarding the influence of his brother, who was killed when the 2 tried to avoid capture. Rather than hold a new sentencing hearing, or just let Tsarnaev remain in federal prison for life, the U.S. Department of Justice appealed to the Supreme Court, which took the case up.

The 2 cases out of Arizona, consolidated as Shinn v. Ramirez will be argued on November 1. The cases are particularly troubling, and complicated, but yet raise a pretty fundamental question about the importance of a competent and effective lawyer in any criminal case, but especially when a defendant is facing the death penalty. To simplify, I explain one aspect of Arizona criminal procedure and one aspect of federal law under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

In Arizona a criminal defendant is not allowed to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal from a conviction. Rather, this constitutional claim can be raised only in a collateral attack on a conviction in state court. So, if a person convicted in Arizona believes that they had ineffective counsel at trial, they have to wait until direct appeals are exhausted before raising this claim in a state collateral challenge to the conviction.

Federal habeas corpus law requires that someone who has been convicted in state court and wishes to attack the conviction in federal district court must have exhausted state appeals as to the claimed defect of the conviction.

Thus, if someone convicted in Arizona had ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, but the lawyer who represented him in the state collateral proceedings is also ineffective, and didn’t raise the claim—the claim will not be heard in state court, due to the second incompetent attorney. Arizona argues, the convicted person has not exhausted state remedies as to this claim and should therefore be barred from raising it in a federal habeas challenge.

In a 2012 case, Martinez v. Ryan, the Supreme Court considered the effect of the Arizona rule in a case that did not involve the death penalty. The Court shied away from addressing whether there is a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel at the stage of a collateral challenge in state court. Instead, the court focused on the issue of when procedural bar might be excused.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer were in the majority, with Justice Anthony Kennedy who wrote the opinion. The court stated that Arizona’s rule coupled with ineffective counsel at the state collateral stage would risk the Sixth Amendment claim not being heard at all—not in state court, due to ineffective counsel in the state collateral challenge, and not in federal court, if the Supreme Court found the claim to be procedurally barred. The court concluded that a defendant may be excused for failing to exhaust state remedies when his counsel at the state collateral stage was ineffective. Since the same issue is involved in Shinn v. Ramirez, it is likely that Supreme Court granted review to change the rule in Martinez v. Ryan.

In these 2 cases Barry Jones and David Ramirez have raised weighty issues about their trial attorneys. Barry Jones argues that his trial counsel did not pursue evidence that could show that he is actually innocent. David Ramirez argues that his counsel did not put on compelling mitigating evidence of his intellectual disability that could have resulted in a life sentence rather than the death penalty.

What relief are these two asking for before the Supreme Court? They are asking the Court to affirm the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which concluded that they should each have a hearing on their Sixth Amendment claims. That is, that they should not be procedurally barred from having a federal district court hold a hearing on the ineffectiveness of their attorneys.

Arizona argues that granting a hearing to Jones and Ramirez will only encourage defense attorneys to sidestep state court review by deliberately omitting Sixth Amendment claims in state collateral review proceedings. This is a rather shocking assertion of unethical conduct, for which Arizona provides no evidence.

It is particularly troubling that the Court granted review in this case and in the Tsarnaev case, when lower courts found possibly flawed trials in these capital cases. It is clear that we cannot rely on the Supreme Court to support the reforms being proposed.

Abolishing the death penalty will not change the ideology of the current Supreme Court. Rather, it will take state and local officials and advocates to abolish. I believe that this is an indispensable step that can propel us closer to a truly reimagined and just criminal justice system.

(source: Commentary; Rachel A. Van Cleave is a professor of law and former dean at Golden Gate University School of Law. She is currently in Rome as a J. William Fulbright Scholar studying Italy’s laws on sexual violence at Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassazione----law.com)

MALAYSIA:

Trader’s death sentence upheld for murder of scrap metal collector

The Federal Court upheld today the death sentence on a trader over the murder of a scrap metal collector in Terengganu 6 years ago.

A panel of 3 judges led by Vernon Ong unanimously turned down the final appeal of Mohamad Zulkifli Ismail, 56, saying they were satisfied that the findings of the High Court were complete and thorough.

“The court is of the view that the High Court judge did not err in law and fact in making the decision. The issues raised by the appellant have no merit,” said Ong, who sat with Abdul Rahman Sebli and Zabariah Mohd Yusof.

The panel of 3 judges made the decision after hearing the arguments of counsel Ariff Azami Hussein, who represented Zulkifli, and deputy public prosecutor Nahra Dollah.

Zulkifli was convicted and sentenced to death by the Kuala Terengganu High Court in May last year for the murder of Zulkefle Abdullah, 37, in a house in Kampung Labohan at 10.30am on Dec 7, 2015.

The High Court on May 27, 2018 also sentenced Zulkifli to 14 years in jail for causing serious injuries to a person with disabilities, Faizul Awang, 37, at the same time, day and place, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal on Dec 10, 2019.

In today’s proceedings, Ariff Azami told the court that Zulkifli was withdrawing his appeal on the conviction and sentence for causing hurt and was only proceeding with the appeal on the murder case.

According to the facts of the case, both victims had stopped at Zulkifli’s house after finding scrap metal in the area when he suddenly dashed towards Zulkefle and stabbed him in the chest and injured Faizul with a parang.

The murder case went viral on social media when Zulkifli alleged he had acted in self-defence against both victims who were attempting to rob him.

It led to the setting up of a “Save Zulkifli” group on Facebook, which had 71,000 followers. The group also posted various negative statements disputing police in arresting Zulkifli and during the court proceedings.

(source: freemalaysiatoday.com)

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2 men get death penalty for drug trafficking

2 men have been sent to the gallows by the High Court in Tawau, Sabah, today, after being found guilty of trafficking 327.1g of methamphetamine two years ago.

Judicial commissioner Lim Hock Leng handed down the death sentence to Ardiansyah Sudirman, 33, and Muhammad Taufik Asis, 29, after finding that the defence had failed to raise reasonable doubt against the prosecution’s case.

(source: themalaysianinsight.com)

CHINA:

Tibetan vlogger Lhamo’s killer gets death sentence for brutal live-streamed murder

A Chinese court sentenced to death a man who set fire to his ex-wife and well-known vlogger Lhamo while she was live-streaming, killing her.

According to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, Tang Lu was convicted of murdering the beloved Tibetan internet celebrity at the Abe Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The death sentence was handed out immediately.

Tang and Lhamo divorced in mid-2020, and three months later, on Sept 14, Tang made an unexpected visit to her home on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, carrying a knife and a bucket of petrol. He doused his ex-wife and set her on fire while she was live-streaming. Two weeks later, the 30-year-old mother of 2 died.

The very public nature and extreme violence of the attack shocked the country and triggered a fierce debate over domestic violence in China.

The Chinese government has proclaimed that it believes in gender equality and is using the tools at its disposal to try and fix the problem of domestic violence in the country.

But, after a string of high-profile cases of deadly violence against women that year, Lhamo’s murder became a tipping point, creating sustained outrage both online and offline in China.

In July 2020, a man was detained for murdering and dismembering his wife after a family dispute. A few days later, Hainan police arrested a man for killing his wife with a kitchen cleaver. Also that month, a man in Sichuan admitted to killing his wife while she was asleep.

The cases, along with national statistics that said 73 men and 14 women were convicted of murdering or attempting to murder an intimate partner between September and October 2020, sparked introspection in China.

Women said they were all too familiar with unequal power dynamics and police who shrugged when domestic violence was reported.

As details of Lhamo’s case emerged, many people believed the system had failed her. Women across China nicknamed her the “perfect victim” because she tried multiple times extradite herself from an abusive relationship, which did not work.

It was not long after the marriage between Lhamo and Tang when the beatings started, and, at first, Lhamo was reluctant to talk about it with her family.

But eventually it got so bad that Lhamo confided in her sister Ms Dolma who tried to talk Tang into stopping but had no success. In one incident, Tang dislocated Lhamo’s shoulder after a poker game.

Lhamo did not rely on Tang for money, and she had repeatedly tried to escape the man after he beat her.

Ms Dolma said Lhamo had gone to the police twice, only to be rebuffed because it was a “family matter”.

In one incident reported by the Post in December 2020, Lhamo had sought refuge at a relative’s home that May. Tang, looking for her, approached Ms Dolma at a souvenir shop and punched her in the face, breaking her jaw.

Lhamo was granted a divorce, but she returned to Tang after he threatened to kill their sons. After he continued to beat her, she filed for divorce again, but Tang was given custody of the 2 boys.

When details emerged that authorities had ignored Lhamo’s cries for help, it touched a nerve in China.

Ms Dolma had been waiting for the trial in Wenchuan since Tuesday (Oct 12) and has repeatedly said on social media that she wanted justice for her sister.

“I am sorry, this is all I can do for you right now. I will protect those you love and worry about,” Ms Dolma said on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, last week. “Please rest in peace, my little sister.”

Lhamo was popular for her warm smile, authentic interactions with fans and love for a self-heating Chinese pork and rice fast food dish.

She made a living in the mountains of Sichuan harvesting herbs with her father, living in makeshift huts while on the hunt, and cooking noodles and potatoes. In 2018, she began documenting her life on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.

In one video post, she explained in the caption why her hands were cracked and dirty. “I have the face of a 30-year-old but the hands of a 50-year-old. Don’t criticise me for the dirty hands, I use them to make money.”

In her final post, Lhamo filmed herself after returning from a trip to the mountains. She wore traditional Tibetan clothes and sang a song in Mandarin about the hospitality of her people.

(source: South China Morning Post)

PAKISTAN:

Intizar murder case: 2 cops sentenced to death, 6 others to life in prison for killing teenager in Karachi

An anti-terrorism court in Karachi on Monday handed down death sentence to 2 police officials, who were serving as the guard and driver of the former chief of the police’s Anti-Car Lifting Cell (ACLC), for killing teenager Intizar Ahmed in a "planned encounter" in the city's Defence Housing Authority neighbourhood in 2018.

The ATC judge found police constables Bilal Rasheed and Mohammad Daniyal, who were then posted as the gunman and driver of ex-ACLC chief (now DIG) Muqaddas Haider, guilty of shooting 19-year-old Intizar to death.

The court also awarded life imprisonment to 6 other ACLC officials, including then-station house officer Tariq Mehmood, former inspectors Tariq Raheem and Azhar Ahsan, then-head constable Shahid Usman and ex-constables Ghulam Abbas and Fawad Khan.

A 7th accused, Ghulam Abbas — another former head constable, was acquitted for want of evidence.

Intizar, who was studying in Malaysia, had returned to Pakistan for his holidays.

He was travelling in his car with a friend, Madiha Kayani, on January 13, 2018, when policemen in plain clothes chased his car and shot him dead in DHA after he failed to stop the vehicle upon the cops' direction. Kayani had managed to escape the scene unscathed in a rickshaw.

“I am satisfied that the murderers of my son have been awarded the death sentence. It has been proved that both the accused shot dead my son,” Ishtiaq Ahmed, the victim's father, told Dawn.com after hearing the order pronounced by the ATC-VII judge, who conducted the trial at the judicial complex inside the central prison.

“But justice will be fully served when the sentences awarded to the accused are executed,” Ahmed added.

A couple of months after Intizar's killing, Kayani in a video statement, which went viral on social media, had appealed to the Rangers and other law enforcement agencies to provide her security.

In July this year, the court had reserved its verdict after recording evidence and final arguments from the defence and prosecution sides.

All the undertrial policemen were indicted on May 15, 2018, for the student's murder. During the trial, the prosecution examined nearly 20 witnesses.

A ballistics expert had confirmed that official weapons of the ACLC personnel were used in the killing.

In their statements, recorded under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code, all the accused had denied the allegations against them and claimed innocence.

Intizar’s killing was initially termed an act of targeted killing by police but after a few days, it transpired that ACLC officials were involved in it.

The investigation officer of the case had initially charge-sheeted 9 officials.

The IO had later let off ex-head constable Ghulam Abbas, saying he was not present at the crime scene, but the court took cognisance of the matter and also initiated a trial against him.

A case was registered under Sections 302 (premeditated murder), 324 (attempt to murder) 109 (abetment) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 7 (punishment for acts of terrorism) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, at the Darakhshan police station on the complaint of the victim’s father.

(source: dawn.com)

IRAN----executions

UN: Iran executes people at `alarming rate' -- 250 in 2020

Iran executed over 250 people, including at least four child offenders, in 2020 and so far this year has carried out 230 executions that included 9 women and 1 child who was executed in secret, the U.N. independent investigator on human rights in Iran said Monday.

Javaid Rehman told the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee that Iran continues to implement the death penalty “at an alarming rate” and said “the absence of official statistics and lack of transparency around executions means that this practice escapes scrutiny resulting in serious abuses preventing accountability.”

According to Amnesty International, Iran was the top executioner in the Middle East last year, accounting for more than half the region’s 493 executions, followed by Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Amnesty’s annual figures exclude China, where executions believed to number in the thousands are classified as a state secret, and omit executions from some countries marred by conflict like Syria.

Rehman said his latest report highlights serious concerns over the grounds Iran uses for imposing the death penalty, such as “vague national security charges.” Iran also has “deeply flawed judicial processes, where even the most basic safeguards are absent,” he said.

“These elements, and the heavy reliance by courts on forced confessions extracted under torture and other fair trial violations lead me to conclude that the imposition of the death penalty in the Islamic Republic of Iran constitutes arbitrary deprivation of life,” Rehman said.

Rehman, a Pakistani-born professor of human rights and Islamic law at Brunel University in London, called it “imperative” for Iran to undertake criminal law and justice reforms, starting “most urgently” with a moratorium on the death penalty for child offenders.

He said that beyond executions, the overall human rights situation in Iran “remains grim.”

He pointed to “persistent impunity for serious violations of human rights law,” including those committed by people in powerful positions and “at the highest level of public office.”

“The presidential elections in June this year clearly highlight this point,” Rehman said. He didn’t elaborate but Iran’s new hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi, led Iran’s judiciary in recent years and as a prosecutor early in his career Raisi served on a so-called “death panel” deciding who would live or be executed in a purge that activists say resulted in the killing of as 5,000 people in 1988.

Rehman said other factors contributing to impunity include “the alarming level of intimidation or persecution of those who call for accountability,” citing the high number of acts of reprisals against families of victims, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists who seek justice. There also has been “a heightened targeting of minority groups and advocates of minority rights,” he said.

“The use of lethal force against peaceful protesters continues to be characteristic of the authorities’ approach to the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly,” he told the committee.

Rehman pointed to the lethal use of live ammunition against unarmed people demonstrating against the lack of water in the western province of Khuzestan in July, when at least 9 people including a minor were killed and a large number of other protesters were injured.

He said the widespread use of torture against detainees in many cases amounts to “arbitrary deprivation of life.”

Rehman singled out two cases: Amirhossein Hatami, a Kurdish prisoner who died after reportedly being beaten with batons to his head by prison officials, and the unclear circumstances of the death in September of Shahin Naseri, a prisoner who provided witness testimony about the torture endured by Navid Afkari, who was executed last year after participating in protests.

(source: Washington Post)

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

Cousins Ali Mohammad Mohammadi and Eslam Mohammadi Executed in Ahvaz

Cousins Ali Mohammad Mohammadi and Eslam Mohammadi who were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for “murder during a tribal clash” have been executed in Ahvaz Sepidar Prison. Ali Mohammad’s mother died of a heart attack following her son’s execution. Their 4 co-defendants remain at risk of execution.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, two men were executed in Ahvaz Sepidar Prison on October 19. The identity of the men who were cousins and sentenced to qisas for “murder during a tribal clash” has been established as Ali Mohammad Mohammadi and Eslam Mohammadi.

Informed sources told Iran Human Rights: “They were from the village of Potk Jalali in Ramhormoz and had committed the murder during a clash between the Mohammadi and Mousayi tribes.”

“The 2 cousins were arrested and sentenced to death along with four other relatives after the clash between the Mousayi and Mohammadi tribes when several people were killed. The victim’s family refused to grant them forgiveness until the moment they were executed. There’s efforts to obtain forgiveness for the other 4 relatives on death row who are at imminent risk of execution,” sources explained.

Sources further added: “Ali Mohammad’s mother died of a heart attack after the executions were carried out. There was also a heavy security atmosphere in the city following the executions and 7 people including a police officer were injured in the ensuing clashes between the people and the police and over 50 were arrested.”

Experts have previously written about the effect of the death penalty on family members, including the increased chances of family members to display violent behaviour and commit crimes.

According to Hengaw which first reported news of their executions, Ali Mohammad and Eslam were arrested on 29 May 2015.

At the time of writing, neither of their 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."

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.

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

Father Seeking Justice and Accountability for Juvenile Offender Son’s Death in Custody Amid Major Obstacles

Following his family’s complaint about the death in custody of juvenile offender, Danial Zeinolabedini on 2 April 2020 in Miandoab Prison, a trial has been scheduled to investigate his death on 19 December 2021. However, security and judicial officers tried to force his father to retract his complaint through coercion and force. While suicide was ruled as the cause of death, no information has been provided about the torture marks on his body. The cause of death is inconsistent with photo evidence and witness statement and his family reject the ruling. Not only has the main suspect in his death not been held accountable but he has been promoted to head another prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a trial has been scheduled for 19 December 2021 to investigate Danial Zeinolabedini’s death in custody upon his family’s complaint.

Following a riot in Mahabad prison on 29 March 2020, Danial Zeinolabedini, a juvenile offender on death row for a murder he allegedly committed when he was 17 years old, was sent to solitary confinement with others. There, he told his family when he called them on 31 March, he was beaten and transferred to Miandoab Prison where again, he was beaten. He could barely speak as he said he was dying and asked them for help. 2 days later, his father received a call from prison authorities informing him that his son was dead.

While authorities claimed he had committed suicide, his bruised and injured body told its own story. Photos of Danial’s body were published by IHRNGO as evidence (viewer discretion is advised).

An informed source told Iran Human Rights: “Following Danial’s death in custody, his father, Seyed Reza Zeinolabedini filed a complaint to the judiciary to establish the cause of his son’s death. They summoned him to the Mahabad Intelligence Office where he was subjected to eight hours of abuse including being beaten and verbally insulted and abused in the most vulgar way.”

“The Legal Medical Organisation ruled his death as suicide, but there was no explanation provided about the bruises and injuries on his body. This is while all his cellmates provided witness testimonies that Danial was beaten while being transferred from Mahabad to Miandoab Prison and an officer named [name withheld by IHRNGO] who beat him the most was transferred and became the warden at Sardasht Prison days later,” the source added.

Danial’s father previously told Iran Human Rights: “Eight people had beaten him up. We having living witnesses that the deputy warden at Mahabad Prison ordered for him to be beaten up. They brought eight native Kurdish officers after the riot and they separated Danial and his co-defendant Danial Divani-Azar from the other prisoners and beat them to near death in solitary confinement or another location [names of officers held by IHRNGO].”

“Danial called from Miandoab (prison) on March 31 and told his uncle Kamal, I’m dying! Please come and save me! That call was from Miandoab. A day prior to his death, he called his uncle for less than a minute and said he was dying. The Legal Medical Organisation hasn’t issued the death certificate because they realised that we are sure he was killed, so they didn’t provide us with any documents. Once they said it was by an injection, another time they said it was suffocation. Another time they said he was given pills. They wanted us to agree despite all the injuries on his body from the beating and kicking, the bruises and the swelling on his head and stomach. I just want my complaint to reach the higher ups, even though I know my voice won’t reach anyone and they won’t pay any attention,” he added.

Danial was born on 9 August 2000 and allegedly committed the murder on 22 September 2017, when he was 17 years old. According to his relatives, he did not commit the murder and had always maintained his innocence.

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Baluch Nazarnaz Ghanbarzehi Executed for Drug Charges in Zahedan

Baluch prisoner Nazarnaz Ghanbarzehi who was on death row for drug-related charges has been executed in Zahedan Central Prison. At least 94 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 Zahedan Central Prison on the morning of October 21. His identity has been reported as Nazarnaz Ghanbarzehi who was sentenced to death in 2018 for drug-related offences.

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 94 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.

(source for all: iranhr.net)

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

Death Penalty Used As Political Tool – UN Expert

Calling almost all executions in Iran an arbitrary deprivation of life, a UN human rights expert today urged the country to reform its laws to end imposition of the death penalty in violation of international law.

“There are extensive, vague and arbitrary grounds in Iran for imposing the death sentence, which quickly can turn this punishment into a political tool,” Javaid Rehman, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, told the UN General Assembly in delivering his fourth annual report.

“In addition, the structural flaws of the justice system are so deep and at odds with the notion of rule of law that one can barely speak of a justice system,” he said. “The entrenched flaws in law and in the administration of the death penalty in Iran mean that most, if not all, executions are an arbitrary deprivation of life.”

The country’s Islamic Penal Code of 2013 provides for the death penalty for a wide range of offences in violation of international human rights law.

He particularly criticised 3 vague criminal charges that carry the death penalty and are often used against political opponents or political protesters: moharebeh (“waging war against God”), efsad-e fel-arz (“corruption on earth”) and baghy (armed rebellion”).

Rehman said he was extremely disturbed by the practice of sentencing children to death, saying Iran remains one of very few countries that continues this practice despite the absolute prohibition under international law.

“The Iranian Government has shown it can reform, which is welcome,” Rehman said. “I call on the authorities to undertake further reforms in order to end the imposition of the death penalty in violation of international law, in line with consistent recommendations made year after year to Iran by international human rights mechanisms.”

In addition to the issue of the death penalty, the report also provides an overview of some key concerns at the human rights situation, including repression of civic space, continuing discrimination against religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, the dire condition of prisons, and the impact of sanctions.

The interactive dialogue will be carried live on UN Web TV.

(source: Javaid Rehman was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2018. He is a Professor of International Human Rights Law and Muslim Constitutionalism at Brunel University, London. Mr Rehman teaches human rights law and Islamic law and continues to publish extensively in the subjects of international human rights law, Islamic law and constitutional practices of Muslim majority States----scoop.co.nz)

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480 killed in 2020-21: Iran carrying out executions ‘at alarming rate,’ UN told----Flawed processes, vague charges show ‘imposition of death penalty constitutes arbitrary deprivation of life,’ investigator Javaid Rehman tells General Assembly’s human rights panel

Iran executed more than 250 people, including at least four child offenders, in 2020 and so far this year has carried out 230 executions that included 9 women and 1 child who was executed in secret, the UN independent investigator on human rights in Iran said Monday.

Javaid Rehman told the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee that Iran continues to implement the death penalty “at an alarming rate” and said “the absence of official statistics and lack of transparency around executions means that this practice escapes scrutiny resulting in serious abuses preventing accountability.”

According to Amnesty International, Iran was the top executioner in the Middle East last year, accounting for more than half the region’s 493 executions, followed by Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Amnesty’s annual figures exclude China, where executions believed to number in the thousands are classified as a state secret, and omit executions from some countries marred by conflict like Syria.

Rehman said his latest report highlights serious concerns over the grounds Iran uses for imposing the death penalty, such as “vague national security charges.” Iran also has “deeply flawed judicial processes, where even the most basic safeguards are absent,” he said.

“These elements, and the heavy reliance by courts on forced confessions extracted under torture and other fair trial violations, lead me to conclude that the imposition of the death penalty in the Islamic Republic of Iran constitutes arbitrary deprivation of life,” Rehman said.

Rehman, a Pakistani-born professor of human rights and Islamic law at Brunel University in London, called it “imperative” for Iran to undertake criminal law and justice reforms, starting “most urgently” with a moratorium on the death penalty for child offenders.

He said that beyond executions, the overall human rights situation in Iran “remains grim.” He pointed to “persistent impunity for serious violations of human rights law,” including those committed by people in powerful positions and “at the highest level of public office.”

“The presidential elections in June this year clearly highlight this point,” Rehman said. He didn’t elaborate, but Iran’s new hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi, led Iran’s judiciary in recent years and as a prosecutor early in his career Raisi served on a so-called “death panel” deciding who would live or be executed in a purge that activists say resulted in the killing of as many as 5,000 people in 1988.

Rehman said other factors contributing to impunity include “the alarming level of intimidation or persecution of those who call for accountability,” citing the high number of acts of reprisals against families of victims, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists who seek justice. There also has been “a heightened targeting of minority groups and advocates of minority rights,” he said.

“The use of lethal force against peaceful protesters continues to be characteristic of the authorities’ approach to the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly,” he told the committee.

Rehman pointed to the lethal use of live ammunition against unarmed people demonstrating against the lack of water in the western province of Khuzestan in July, when at least nine people including a minor were killed and a large number of other protesters were injured.

He said the widespread use of torture against detainees in many cases amounts to “arbitrary deprivation of life.”

Rehman singled out two cases: Amirhossein Hatami, a Kurdish prisoner who died after reportedly being beaten with batons to his head by prison officials, and the unclear circumstances of the death in September of Shahin Naseri, a prisoner who provided witness testimony about the torture endured by Navid Afkari, who was executed last year after participating in protests.

(source: Associated Press)

EGYPT:

Egyptian court sentences Hisham Ashmawy’s top aide, two others to death

An Egyptian court sentenced on Monday terrorist Bahaa Kishk, the right-hand man of Hisham Ashmawy who was executed in Egypt last year, and two fugitives to death over terrorism charges.

The ruling was issued after the country's top Muslim legal authority consented to the punishment. In July, the court referred preliminary death sentences against the defendants to the grand mufti, whose opinion is legally required in death penalty cases but is not binding.

The prosecution charged the defendants with leading Al-Qaeda-aligned Al-Mourabitoun group along with Ashmawy and financing a terrorist organisation with arms, ammunition, and explosives.

Kishk, who was arrested in Libya and extradited to Egypt, was considered the right-hand man of Ashmawy, who was also captured in the eastern Libyan city of Derna in late 2018.

Ashmawy, described as the country's most dangerous terrorist, was handed over to Egypt by forces loyal to Commander Khalifa Haftar in May 2019.

Ashmawy was handed 2 death sentences after being convicted of orchestrating several deadly high-profile attacks against security forces. He was executed by hanging in March 2020.

Monday's verdict is not final and can be appealed.

(source: english.ahram.org.eg)

NIGERIA:

Pedro: Death penalty has outlived its purpose

Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN) is a former Solicitor General of Lagos State. In this interview with JOHN CHIKEZIE, the silk who recently clocked 60 years, speaks on his experience as Solicitor General and sundry issues

How has life experience being so far, especially now that you attained the age of 60 years?

Well, God Almighty has been good to me and my family and I am eternally grateful to him.

There have been challenges but I would say the positives so far outweighs the negative challenges that I’ve faced so far.

I have many reasons to thank God for his blessings, mercies, goodness, love, guardian and kindness. Truly, I have many reasons to be grateful to God.

What nurtured your decision to study law at the University?

I was motivated to read law because I was born in the area where we have the first set of courts in Lagos Nigeria; Igbosere to Tinubu where you see lawyers pass by everyday in their robes. But more particularly, I was intrigued by my role model and uncle, Hon. Justice Muheeb Kotun, who was then a Magistrate and later a High Court Judge in Lagos. He was married to my father’s sister.

He loved me like any of his children. Back then, at the age of 8, I loved to play football and each time there was a family meeting, in which my father presided, I would be the one to serve drinks to family members in attendance.

But surprisingly, the meeting would never start at the scheduled time, until this my big uncle arrives and that would always make me miss my football matches. I always wondered why he was so important that everybody, including the elders of the family, would have to wait for his arrival before commencing the meeting.

So, I became curious and I asked my father about him and he told me that my uncle was a Magistrate and that it was important to wait for him, though he was his junior. When I asked what it took to become a Magistrate, I was told I would have to study law at the university first.

Instinctively, I decided to become a lawyer, so that I could become as important as my uncle. However, when he was told that I had gained admission to study law, he completely showered me with so much love and affection that I became one of the few persons even to drive his private car for personal outings.

You spent almost 2 decades working as a civil servant with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), how would you describe the experience

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 two years based on the agreement I had with my role model but I found myself working for nearly 2 decades.

Working there was a wonderful experience as I worked in most of the departments and rose through the ranks to become the Solicitor General of Lagos State and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry in 2008. I was also privileged to have been rewarded with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in the same year while serving as a civil servant.

That was the first time any civil servant in Lagos or any other state in Nigeria would be conferred with such an honour. That was a landmark achievement in my life and in Lagos State, as it is different from those who came into the Ministry on political appointment and became SAN.

The Lagos State Ministry of Justice is not just a ministry, but a law office and perhaps the biggest and largest law office in Nigeria and Sub-Sahara Africa. The Ministry is a good place for any lawyer that wants to excel and there are opportunities for those that just want to belong and earn a living.

Those that are lazy and get paid after 30 days are also accommodated, because the Ministry is still part of the civil service.

For me, MOJ developed me and I will always 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 Dorris Okuwobi, Mr. Fola Arthur Worrey, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON (current Vice President of Nigeria) and 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 MOJ as Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary?

The challenges I faced was as a result of what you can call civil service mentality. In 2008, when I was appointed Solicitor-General, I happened to be one of the most junior directors in the Ministry. Then, I had seniors, both in age and at the Bar, who were also in civil service before my appointment as SolicitorGeneral and Permanent Secretary.

That appointment was against the Civil Service convention, which stipulated that the most senior director, in a Ministry, becomes Permanent Secretary. Understandably, some persons didn’t like that but some knew I had put up a lot of industry to earn the appointment.

There were uproars after my appointment and some people said I got the appointment because I was a Lagosian. Others said it was because I was Prof. Osinbajo’s boy. But, I will forever remain grateful to Senator Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who insisted on my appointment.

The good thing that later happened was that, few months after my appointment, I became a 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 cases you handled for the state while in the Ministry?

There are many of them but I will just mention a few. The case of Reverend King, which I handled by virtue of my position as SolicitorGeneral.

I was the coordinator of high profile criminal cases in the Ministry and the then Director of Public Prosecution, (DPP,) who is now a High Court Judge, worked with me on the case up to the Supreme Court.

The case of Major Hamzat AlMustapha is another high profile case. The initial trial was boggled through petitions against the presiding judge (Justice Ade Alabi). When the matter started denovo, I led the prosecution and secured conviction.

But regrettably, the conviction was upturned by the Court of Appeal. I was also involved in all constitutional matters for or against Lagos State government at the Supreme Court. For example, 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 still continue 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 statutes that created it should be reviewed. The question we should all consider is whether death penalty has served as a deterrent to others?

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 or correctional centers should have been developed beyond what we have today.

We have vast lands in the country, where we can build new prison facilities and send convicted criminals there to farm. In Ibeju to Epe for instance, there are islands that can only be accessed through water. We can build new prison facilities in places like that and send convicts 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, it will revive the dead victim?

I would rather advocate reformative and restorative system of justice instead of just killing people who have committed capital offence.

(source: newtelegraphng.com)

OCTOBER 25, 2021:

FLORIDA:

There Is a Vengeful America and a Just America. Guess Which Florida Promotes.

When I retired, presenters at death penalty conferences were referencing the 27 people who had been released from death row after extensive reviews of their cases resulted in their being exonerated. While many of the releases were for DNA exonerations, there are several other reasons why death row inmates have been exonerated. More recently, I read that the number of exonerated death row inmates in Florida is now 30.

Each time a new death row inmate is exonerated, it establishes that a detective erred, a prosecutor erred, a jury erred and a judge erred. Sometimes, they just didn’t do it; in Florida that number is 30 erroneous allegations of murder and accompanying announcements of intent to seek the death penalty, and counting.

In three of my 8 1st-degree murder trials, juries returned a not guilty verdict to the charge of 1st-degree murder. (I have posted comments on each of these 3 trials in these pages previously.)

One was a complete not guilty.

Another resulted in a DUI manslaughter conviction, which was our defense argument from opening statements throughout the entire trial.

The 3rd jury returned a verdict of guilty to second-degree murder, but that client refused to allow me to ask for or argue in favor of any lesser included offenses on the verdict form (I can talk about this as the trial judge released me from the attorney-client privilege during a post-conviction hearing, during which the former client agreed that I had repeatedly asked for permission to argue for a vehicular homicide verdict). She wanted guilty as charged and not guilty as the only choices on the verdict form. The prosecution asked the trial judge for the 2nd-degree murder option on the verdict form.

Since the jury rejected the prosecution’s argument for first-degree murder, there is the possibility that the jury would have convicted of vehicular homicide if given the opportunity and the argument. I will never know.

During that trial, the traffic homicide investigator, on cross-examination, repeatedly admitted that what he had just told the jury during direct examination was “garbage.” My co-counsel told me that each time the investigator said his previous testimony was “garbage”, the lead prosecutor, who was also the homicide division chief for all four counties, would clench his fists. All I did was play the prosecution’s video-surveillance footage a half-second at a time and ask the investigator to explain what each frame depicted. He hadn’t done that before trial, so he didn’t know that point after point (at least 10 points) in his traffic homicide report was rebutted by the State’s own video-surveillance evidence.

Why no one in their entire prosecution team looked at the surveillance video that way before trial remains a mystery to me. I deeply felt that the jury would never come back with a complete not guilty verdict under the undisputed facts, but I still strongly believe the jurors were more than willing to return a verdict for vehicular homicide if they had had that option. When an investigator admits that his impact point as depicted in his direct-examination presentation to the jury is off by approximately 27 feet, it sort of undermines the rest of his testimony.

He also admitted that he just selected an acceleration mark on the bank parking lot pavement from several other acceleration marks without comparing it to the tires on the giant SUV, even though the witnesses had told him that the SUV had backed into a parking space and one said its tires chirped as it was accelerating through the bank parking lot, which was far from the tire mark the investigator selected as the vehicle’s starting point.

Remember, this is a first-degree murder prosecution–where the penalty is up to life in prison without parole–not a theft of hot dogs case.

I don’t know if the investigator is still with the agency. But years after the trial I read that he and a couple of other deputies had been suspended pending investigation of a severe beating of a suspect that a bystander had video-recorded.

Florida’s sentencing guidelines statute details the primary purpose of sentencing is to punish, not to rehabilitate. Indiana actually has a clause in its constitution that preserves the primary focus of its criminal justice system as rehabilitation. I have previously commented on the difference between honor-based societies and respect-based ones. Honor demands vengeance. Respect commands justice. 2 significantly different approaches. There really is a vengeful America and a just America. Guess which approach Florida’s government promotes!

Somehow, western European societies have a murder rate of significantly less that one person per 100,000 per year (generally at or below 1 persons per 100,000; the European Union average for 24 countries, including east European outliers, is 1.4), while America’s murder rate hovers at 5 per 100,000 per year.

(source: Raymond Warren was a long-time Assistant Public Defender in the Seventh Judicial District, which includes Flagler, Volusia, Putnam and St. Johns counties----flaglerlive.com)

OHIO:

George Wagner to argue against the death penalty in his case in Pike County

George Wagner will return to a Pike County courtroom Monday to continue to try to get the death penalty off of the table in his case. George, his brother Jake, and their parents Billy and Angela are all accused of murdering 7 members of the Rhoden family and Hannah Gilley in 2016. The motive was apparently custody of Jake's daughter with Hanna Rhoden.

Jake Wagner pleaded guilty to the murders. In exchange for his testimony, the death penalty would be dropped against all 4 Wagners. Angela Wagner has also pleaded guilty.

As part of Jake's plea, the prosecution agreed to take away the death penalty in all 4 cases. However, George Wagner's attorneys are still concerned it could be reinstated if Jake doesn't testify in the other cases to their satisfaction.

George's attorneys point to the information that came from Jake's plea that apparently indicates that George didn't shoot any of the victims.

Billy Wagner has also attempted to have the death penalty dismissed but the judge denied that request.

(source: WKRC news)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma resumes lethal injections that ‘burn men alive’ this week. 7 men may die before they can appeal----Oklahoma inmates have been waging a constitutional challenge against the state’s death penalty since 2014. Now, after a 6-year pause, executions are set to resume. Josh Marcus writes

In the next few weeks, 2 very different sets of events could be set in motion that will determine the lives of seven men on Oklahoma’s death row.

If the state has its way, the men – John Marion Grant, Julius Jones, Bigler Jobe Stouffer, Wade Greely Lay, Donald A Grant, Gilbert Ray Postelle, and James Allen Coddington – will be killed, as planned, at regular intervals between this month and next spring. Their deaths will mark Oklahoma’s 1st executions for more than 6 years, after a series of disastrous botched killings caused one of the country’s most prolific death chambers to go quiet.

However, most of these men are part of a massive lawsuit from death-row prisoners challenging Oklahoma’s lethal injection process as unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment – torture, in other words. The suit argues that even after a multi-year moratorium and extensive investigation, the state hasn’t changed its ways since it graphically executed multiple people with the wrong drugs. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office previously promised to halt executions while the case went forward, only to seemingly change course when a new AG came to power in 2021.

If the prisoners’ lawsuit is successful, their executions could be delayed well into 2022, pending the results of a trial that will put the state’s execution record under renewed scrutiny and could change the Oklahoma death penalty forever. Along with a growing awareness of the problems with the criminal justice system in America, and a burgeoning innocence movement to free the state’smost famous death row inmate, Julius Jones, the halting of Oklahoma’s main execution method would be a sign that the state’s decades of smooth, popular executions could be coming to an end. Otherwise, the prisoner-plaintiffs begin dying on 28 October.

“Injustice does not even describe what would result if these plaintiffs are executed and the federal court later decides that the current Oklahoma protocol is unconstitutional,” federal public defender Dale Baich, who is spearheading the appeal, told The Independent. “The executions could not be undone.”

His team has moved in federal court to pause the killings at least until the trial can play out.

The wide-ranging case has been ping-ponging through the state and federal legal system since 2014. Its main claim is that Oklahoma’s three-drug execution cocktail of midazolam, a short-acting sedative; vecuronium bromide, which stops breathing; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart, doesn’t do enough to put prisoners out before they are executed.

Instead, the suit argues, autopsy evidence suggests the drugs make prisoners feel like they’re being drowned via a “flash pulmonary edema” as well as “burned alive”. It’s a combination so cruel it violates the Eighth Amendment and produces “severe pain, needless suffering, and a lingering death”, the original lawsuit claims. More than 30 death-row inmates are now a part of the action.

The case has taken on new urgency in recent months, thanks to a number of duelling developments. In August, a federal court found that the trial could go forward, but scrapped the claims of six men because they hadn’t selected an alternative way to die. Less than two weeks later, the Oklahoma attorney general moved to advance the death-penalty process, and the group got their execution dates. However, in September, something wholly unexpected happened in Oklahoma, the state that’s executed the third most people in modern American history.

On 13 September, 2021, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended 3-1 that the governor commute the death sentence of Julius Jones. Jones has claimed for the last 20 years he was wrongfully convicted as a 19-year-old for a 1999 murder of a white man in the Oklahoma City suburbs. A growing body of evidence suggests the conviction of Jones, who is Black, was tarred with police and prosecutorial misconduct as well as systemic racism. The commutation recommendation, the high point of a growing “Justice for Julius” movement so far, was the 1st of its kind in Oklahoma history.

Then, on Friday, barely a week before the lethal injections are set to begin anew, a federal appeals court brought the 6 men, including Jones, back into the case, ruling that the lower court had abused its discretion by passing a final judgement on their executions in the middle of a constitutional challenge. A trial is set for the end of February.

That would seem to be the end of things. Under the previous Attorney General, Mike Hunter, the state agreed with death-row inmates to hold off on executions until their lawsuit was done.

“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,” a federal judge presiding over the legal challenge said last year. “I will be, to put it mildly, immediately available.”

All of this would seem to suggest that those on Oklahoma death row can breathe a sigh of relief. Not in the slightest.

Mr Hunter resigned in May 2021, amid a marital scandal, and the new Attorney General John O’Connor has made no such promises to hold off on using the death penalty against the men in the appeal. Mr O’Connor, along with Republican governor Kevin Stitt, has pushed hard to resume executions, which Mr Stitt said in 2020 would “deliver accountability and justice to the victims who have suffered unthinkable loss and pain”.

The Independent has reached out to the attorney general’s office, as well as the governor’s office, for comment.

The whole present state of affairs, from the eleventh hour legal appeals to questions over the safety of the state’s lethal injection drugs, is quickly turning into an exercise in deja vu for an era that was supposed to be behind Oklahoma.

“Why is Oklahoma so dead set on the death penalty?” Reverend Don Heath, chair of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, told The Independent. “Are people more violent? Are people less merciful, more vengeful? No. But I think you can say that our criminal justice system is more broken.”

Starting in 2014, the state botched three executions in short order, prompting a wholesale re-evalauation of the death penalty. At least temporarily.

In April of 2014, it took executioners 17 attempts to set an IV line on Clayton Lockett, who began moaning, groaning, and attempting to speak after he was supposed to be unconscious. Witnesses were ushered out and a curtain was pulled over the death chamber, where Lockett died of a heart attack. A 2015 autopsy revealed he had accidentally been given the wrong execution drug.

That same year, Charles Warner told onlookers “my body is on fire” during his execution in January, which mistakenly used the same wrong drug, potassium acetate, that had killed Lockett.

By September, Oklahoma was about to bungle a third killing, that of Richard Glossip, before then-Governor Mary Fallin called off the execution at the least minute after she learned he too was about to be injected with the incorrect poison. Glossip came within 2 hours of death.

The spate of lethal and near-lethal mistakes prompted bipartisan condemnation across the country. Former President Barack Obama said the state’s practices were “deeply troubling”, while Ms Fallin, a Republican, pushed for a moratorium on state executions.

“Until we have complete confidence in the system, we will delay any further executions,” she said in 2015.

The execution errors set off a period of soul searching for a state known for its enthusiastic use of capital punishment. The Oklahoma Attorney General ordered a grand jury investigation into the state’s execution practices, and a wider bipartisan commission concluded in 2017 that the state’s executions should not resume until the remedy of a “disturbing” host of “systemic flaws”, ranging from poor policing and racism to outgunned defense attorneys and under-scrutinised execution protocols.

All told, this state of affairs suggested Oklahoma was executing innocent people and abusing the guilty, The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission argued.

“It is undeniable that innocent people have been sentenced to death in Oklahoma,” they wrote.

3 years later, the state announced its intentions to bring back executions, saying it had located a “reliable supply of drugs”.

"It is important that the state is implementing our death penalty law with a procedure that is humane and swift for those convicted of the most heinous of crimes," Governor Stitt said at the time.

Oklahoma stills plans to use the same three-chemical cocktail as it did before the review, and won’t disclose where it sources the drugs. States across the country have resorted to ever-more opaque methods of securing lethal injection drugs, as most mainstream pharmaceutical companies have moved away from supplying executions, raising questions about safety and medical ethics.

Civil rights groups have blasted the seeming lack of reform.

“The government’s actions remain shrouded in secrecy and they continue to refuse to share important details of the execution protocol. In short, the government’s stated position is ‘trust us,’” Ryan Kiesel, then the director of the Oklahoma branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said at the time.

“Combine the random nature of who gets the death penalty, with the state’s repeated failures in carrying out executions, the government’s refusal to share information, and the possibility of Oklahoma executing an innocent person, and it just seems like common sense that we should not trust the government with this awesome and irrevocable power.”

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

This is still Oklahoma, long home to one of the nation’s most top five most aggressive death penalty prosecutors. This is a state where people in 2016 voted overwhelmingly to take the unusual step of amending the state constitution to explicitly guard against civil rights challenges, in this case by stating the death penalty wasn’t cruel and unusual punishment, regardless of method, even after the botched killings. Oklahoma, in other words, isn’t going to end executions without a fight.

Rights advocates are still not convinced the state has learned its lesson, even as it prepares to execute another 7 people.

“It is a fact that 10 people have been exonerated from Oklahoma’s death row because of prosecutorial misconduct or actual innocence, so I would say that their track record is not great.” Cece Davis-Jones , a leader of the Justice for Julius movement, told The Independent. “It is a racially biased practice. You see that statistically in how it is applied in the state of Oklahoma.”

Three of the seven men facing immediate execution in Oklahoma are Black, in a state with about an eight per cent Black population. Half of the 10 exonerees were African-American.

What happens next, as is often the case on death row, is in a state of dizzying legal limbo. Multiple men have already appealed their impending executions to make time for their impending appeals in federal court. A last-minute request from state officials could push back the frenzied execution timeline until after the February trial.

If the 2022 trial goes forward and drags on, as appeals tend to do in the world of capital punishment, the state’s execution drugs could expire, as they have in places like Arkansas in 2019. Though that state is an example of the alternative as well: it put four men to death in eight days to use its lethal injections before they went bad.

In the meantime, death row inmates nearing their execution dates have been put on “death watch”, a state policy that moves inmates into cells closer and closer to the execution chamber as time ticks down each week, ostensibly for security reasons. Most of their possessions beyond Bibles, pens and paper, and a few photos, have been boxed up, in preparation to be sent to their families.

“[Julius Jones] recently in the last few days had to fill out paperwork of what he would like his last meal to be. I can only imagine what’s going through his mind and how he’s feeling,” Ms Jones-Davis, the Justice for Julius activist, said.

“It feels to me like psychological warfare. I’m not able to speak to him, but I just hope he’s holding up well under the circumstances ... It feels like it’s a method to make someone malleable to their death, to break them down psychologically.”

Such is the way of justice on death row: appeal and death can be progressing at the same time in different directions, all while those at the heart of the matter remain isolated in the middle, waiting to die.

(source: The Independent)

USA:

3 years after massacre, U.S. v. Bowers grinds on in federal court

3 years after the federal government charged Robert Bowers with massacring 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue, the case drags on.

The government keeps pushing for a trial date and insisting on the death penalty.

The defense wants a plea deal and has filed numerous motions to suppress statements, examine physical evidence, challenge jury selection procedures and ask for delays because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The number of docket entries stood at 626 as of Friday, and the back-and-forth bickering has at times approached absurdity.

At one point, the defense objected to FBI agents wearing their guns during an evidence review — inside one of the bureau’s own buildings.

Most recently, U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose extended the pretrial motions deadline for another 90 days, until Jan. 18.

The U.S. attorney’s office said it did not object to the latest delay, “given anticipated defense filings related to mental health and defense challenges to the Western District of Pennsylvania jury plan and venue.”

But prosecutors said the defense should be prepared to file all remaining motions by that date so more extensions shouldn’t be necessary.

“The United States remains committed to upholding the statutory right of crime victims and urges the court to consider the rights of crime victims to proceedings ‘free from unreasonable delay,’” the prosecution said.

The latest courtroom action occurred Oct. 12 and 13, when Judge Ambrose heard 2 days of testimony from police in a suppression hearing. The defense is trying to convince the judge to throw out antisemitic statements that police say Mr. Bowers made during and after a shootout with the city SWAT team inside the synagogue.

The judge gave both parties 30 days to file briefs on the issue after receiving a transcript.

The backdrop to this case is the Biden administration’s stance on the death penalty, which is muddled by another high-profile prosecution.

While Mr. Biden has said he opposes the death penalty and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland imposed a moratorium on it in June, the Justice Department is still trying to execute Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

In 2020, an appeals court upheld Tsarnaev’s conviction but overturned his death sentence.

The Justice Department initially appealed under the Trump administration, which executed a record 13 federal prisoners. The new administration chose to continue the appeal, despite Mr. Biden’s stated opposition to capital punishment.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this month and, according to numerous media accounts, appeared to be favoring reinstating the death sentence.

It’s not clear how that case may impact the Bowers prosecution, but his defense team is not alone in holding out for a plea deal.

Congregation Dor Hadash, 1 of the 3 groups of worshippers at Tree of Life, opposes the death penalty and in June sent a letter to Mr. Garland, asking him to let Mr. Bowers plead and spend his life in prison.

Meanwhile, the parties continue to spar over almost every issue.

Over the months, the sides have gotten under each other’s skin, with the prosecution accusing the defense of delaying the case repeatedly and the defense accusing the prosecution of heavy-handed tactics.

The defense lawyers — public defenders Michael Novara and Elisa Long and California anti-death penalty lawyer Judy Clarke — lost the most noteworthy battle last year when Judge Ambrose rejected their challenge to the federal death penalty. They said it violates the Constitution, but in April 2020, the judge said it does not.

Since then, the lawyers have argued repeatedly with prosecutors Soo Song, Troy Rivetti and Julia Gegenheimer over numerous issues, some of them bordering on inane.

During a debate last year about access to the physical evidence — most of it gun-related — at an off-site FBI building, the defense was upset at the fact that agents were wearing their guns. (FBI agents are required to carry guns on duty.)

“Defense counsel were apparently jarred by observing holstered weapons carried by FBI agents on FBI premises, even as the majority of evidence items consisted of firearms, casings, bullet fragments, or other firearms-related items,” prosecutors wrote. “FBI special agents are required to carry their weapons while conducting official business on FBI premises and, indeed, are encouraged to be armed at all times.”

The defense team also was angered at having to go through FBI security screenings to get inside.

The prosecution noted, however, that all visitors to FBI buildings have to go through the same screening and said even federal judges are screened “without complaint.”

“Indeed, as this court well knows, to enter this federal courthouse, individuals are required to produce identification and surrender their cellular telephones or recording devices,” the prosecutors said. “These are reasonable security measures, and it is not the defendant’s prerogative to dictate when and how the FBI’s standard security measures should be altered.”

The court case is filled with similar debates about evidence, access and deadlines.

At the end of the suppression hearing on Oct. 13, Judge Ambrose addressed the constant animosity.

After extending the deadline for pretrial motions again, she told the parties that instead of squabbling back and forth in court filings about procedural issues, they could always just try talking to each other.

In the gallery, the audience chuckled.

(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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

Boston bomber case tests US and Biden on death penalty as victims’ families divided

President Biden campaigned on ending the death penalty, and is the 1st sitting president to oppose capital punishment. But an upcoming appeal at the Supreme Court of the death sentence in the Boston Bombing terrorism case has tested how far he’s willing to go to stick to that unprecedented stance—and has divided families touched by the tragedy.

On Wednesday, the high court will hear arguments from the Justice Department about reinstating a death sentence against one of the Boston Marathon bombers, who was convicted in 2015 of 30 different counts related to the bombing, which killed 3 people and injured 264. The bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now 28, has been sentenced to death, but appealed on arguments he didn’t get a fair trial.

The prospect of a death sentence for Tsarnaev, who carried out the bombing with his now-deceased older brother Tamerlan, has divided those closest to the Boston Bombing.

Bill and Denise Richard, parents of 8-year-old Martin, the youngest of those killed in the attack, have argued against giving their son’s killer the death penalty, as a lengthy capital case could prolong their anguish.

“We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul,” the parents wrote in an opinion piece in the Boston Globe.

They continued: “We know that 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. We hope our 2 remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.”

Others, like Elizabeth Norden, whose sons JP and Paul lost legs in the bombing, welcome Tsarnaev getting the death penalty.

She 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 definitely 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.”

Ms Norden now runs a charity called a 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. She said that regardless of whether Tsarnaev gets the death penalty or a lifetime prison sentence, she’ll always be in great pain over what happened.

“Will it change my life? Will there ever be closure, absolutely not,” she said. “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.”

In July of 2020, an appeals court left most of Tsarnaev’s convictions in place, but threw out his death sentence and ordered a new round of sentencing with a new jury. They agreed with his lawyers that jurors hadn’t been sufficiently questioned about their exposure to media before the trial, where coverage of the bombing was everywhere and people were calling for executions, and hadn’t been given enough information about the alleged influence Tsarnaev’s older brother Tamerlan had on Dzhokar carrying out the attack. (Tamerlan died in a shootout with police in the manhunt that followed the bombing.)

Donald Trump, whose administration restarted federal executions after a 17-year pause, called Dzhokhar Tsarnaev an “animal.” His Justice Department appealed the sentence reduction to the Supreme Court.

Though Joe Biden has stated his opposition to the death penalty, now that his administration is in charge, it has continued to press for execution in this case.

“The record definitively demonstrates that respondent was eager to commit his crimes, was untroubled at having ended two lives and devastated many others, and remained proud of his actions,” the DOJ said in a filing. “This court should reverse the decision below and put this case back on track toward a just conclusion.”

It also said the underlying trial was fair, and that jurors could still made a fair decision despite media coverage of the bombings.

Asked about the case earlier this year, the White House reiterated the president’s general opposition to the death penalty. This summer, the DOJ paused the federal executions that had been restarted under the Trump administration.

“President Biden has made clear, as he did on the campaign trail, that he has grave concerns about whether capital punishment, as currently implemented, is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in March. ““He’s also expressed his horror at the events that day and his actions and Tsarnaev’s actions.”

The White House and DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

This latest appeal will be decided between now and June 2022.

The DOJ has called its case against Tsarnaev “one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our nation’s history.”

(source: News Nation)

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Erwin Chemerinsky column: 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 Donald Trump.

As a candidate for president, Joe Biden said he opposed the federal death penalty. Therefore, it was no surprise when Attorney General 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 Oct. 13.

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: OPpinion; Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. He is the author most recently of “Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights.”----Los Angeles Times)

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John Grisham: ‘Our project has 375 DNA exonerations, and some of those were on death row’----The master of the industrial-strength page turner talks about his new novel and US justice system

John Grisham is an unapologetic master of the industrial-strength page turner. His latest, The Judge’s List, due out next week from Hodder & Stoughton, is a sleek suspense novel about the hunt for a serial killer who is also a sitting judge.

Grisham’s main goal is to entertain an enormous audience that is counting on him to deliver a legal thriller every year in time for the holidays. “I’ve always been honest,” he says. “This is not literature. This is not literary fiction. This is popular fiction, and hopefully it’s a high quality of popular fiction. That’s what I aspire to write. I’d much rather sell books than get good reviews.”

But Grisham’s interests are more varied than that comment would suggest. A former criminal defence and personal-injury lawyer, he is a student of the shortcomings of the US justice system. Grisham has, for instance, worked hard to draw attention to wrongful convictions, saying he has been inspired by the work of Jim Dwyer, a reporter and columnist for the New York Times who died last year.

Grisham, who is 66, also has sharp things to say about electing judges and prosecutors, a practice that is common in many American states and all but unknown in the rest of the world.

“They’ve spent 20 or 30 years in prison for somebody else’s crime, and so the injustice is really something that still nags at me

We also talk about the United States supreme court, which I cover for the New York Times. Grisham traces a line from Bush v Gore, the 2000 decision that handed the presidency to George W Bush, to the efforts of US senator Mitch McConnell to ensure the appointments of president Donald Trump’s three nominees. The Supreme Court, Grisham says, “is a very political court”.

The genre people associate with you is “legal thriller.” Is that what the new book is?

I don’t know where that term came from. I’ve used it myself a thousand times because it seems to fit. To me, it’s old-fashioned suspense. The legal-thriller thing just sticks because someone said it 30 years ago when The Firm came out. Scott Turow in 1987 published Presumed Innocent and kind of rewrote the whole book of blueprints for great legal suspense. That was such a brilliant book. It really inspired me to finish my first novel, but I don’t recall people describing Scott’s first book as a legal thriller. It’s a great courtroom-suspense novel. So I don’t know where the term came from. I guess it fits. It’s certainly sold a zillion books for me.

This is not the first of your books to feature a corrupt, disgraced or criminal judge. Does that suggest something about your general view of the American judiciary?

I have a lot of respect for judges, but I don’t like the way we choose them. 15 years ago I read your series on the Ohio state supreme-court judges. At the same time I was researching a book that became The Appeal, about the buying of supreme-court judges in Mississippi. More than 30 states elect supreme-court judges, which is just absolute stupidity. And I was watching the lunacy of West Virginia, where they were buying judges right and left.

I get very frustrated with the innocence cases that I work on through the Innocence Project, because there’s so many wrongful convictions that should be prevented by judges who are awake in the courtroom. So often – we see it thousands of times – judges are just not on the ball, and they allow stuff into testimony that has no business going in, and it’s very damaging.

I can’t help asking you about this in light of my day job: Do you have thoughts about the current US supreme court?

It’s very distressing. I think the supreme court lost so much credibility in 2000 when five Republicans on the court saw a chance to elect a president, and that’s what they did. And at that point it became a very political court, and that has not changed over the years, certainly not in the past four years. The way McConnell was able to hijack the supreme court was just hard-core raw politics. And it’s probably not going to change for many, many years. It’s now the Trump court.

You mentioned your work with the Innocence Project. Say a little more about what that experience has taught you about the American criminal-justice system.

It was not something I ever thought I’d get involved in. I practised criminal law for 10 years, and we had a really good system in my little rural neck of the woods in Mississippi. I knew the cops, I knew the prosecutors, I knew the judges, and it was a very efficient system. Everybody played fair. I had a lot of clients who went to prison. They deserved it. I never had a client who I thought was wrongfully convicted. It just never occurred to me that these things were happening until ... do you know Jim Dwyer?

Jim was a giant.

He wrote this obituary in December of 2004. I love the New York Times obituaries. And it was a weekday obituary. The lead story was a guy my age, my race, my background, my religion, my neck of the woods – he was from Oklahoma; I’m from Arkansas – small town, rural. And he was a second-round draft pick of the Oakland A’s in 1973, a year I thought I might get drafted. My name was never called. This guy got drafted high but, anyway, didn’t make it. And he went back to his hometown in Oklahoma and was convicted of capital murder and sent to death row by the same town that always idolised him as a sports hero. He served 11 years, came within 5 days of being executed.

“To survive law school, you’ve got to be able to handle the language and not be fearful of the language or the act of writing, and a lot of people are

So I’m reading his obituary. He had just died after being exonerated by DNA. The story just slapped me in the face. Before long I was in Oklahoma, in a small town. This is my only nonfiction book. It was published in 2006, and it really took me into the world of wrongful convictions, something I’ve never really thought about. Once I got into researching The Innocent Man, I just realised how many innocent people are actually in prison, and there are thousands of them, tens of thousands of them. Barry Scheck asked me to join the board of the Innocence Project, and I did. We litigate coast to coast, getting our innocent clients out of prison through DNA testing. And we have 375 DNA exonerations, and some of those were on death row.

The work is addictive, because you get caught up with these clients. You’ve come to know that they’re innocent and yet they’ve spent 20 or 30 years in prison for somebody else’s crime, and so the injustice is really something that still nags at me. It’s a never-ending battle that I hope I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.

It’s great to see someone, after achieving your level of success, leverage it to do important, valuable work like that.

I’ll tell you something, Adam. Every wrongful conviction case should be a book, because these are fantastic stories from a storytelling point of view because of the incredible suffering, the injustice, the wasted lives, the wasted time, the wasted money, the wasted everything that goes into a single wrongful conviction, while the real rapist, the real murderer goes free.

Do you think your legal training helped or hurt your prose style?

It was crucial, because I would never have written anything without the legal background. To survive law school, you’ve got to be able to handle the language and not be fearful of the language or the act of writing, and a lot of people are. But by the time you finish law school, you’ve written so much. And then your first years as a lawyer, you realise how much you have to write.

You can probably read the first 10 pages of a book about a courtroom drama and tell if the writer is a lawyer or not. There’s some things just come naturally. You just know the terminology, the phraseology, the legal theories, the courtroom procedures. As a lawyer, you just know that kind of stuff, and I get frustrated when I read legal thrillers or legal courtroom dramas written by people who are not lawyers, because you can always tell the lack of authenticity.

One false move just destroys it.

Yeah, one bad term, one word out of place, and you think, Wait a minute, this is not the way it is. So, yeah, the legal training is crucial. And also, I don’t think I would have become a writer had I not been a lawyer. I never dreamed of being a writer. It was not something I ever studied. I never took a course in creative writing.

John Grisham: ‘I made peace with the literary critics a long, long time ago. They were pretty harsh with the first 2 or 3 books. You can’t let that dictate what you write.’ Photograph: Donald Johnson/The New York Times John Grisham: ‘I made peace with the literary critics a long, long time ago. They were pretty harsh with the first two or three books. You can’t let that dictate what you write.’ Photograph: Donald Johnson/The New York Times What’s the rhythm of your year like? Did I read that you devote part of the year to writing one book and the rest to different activities? For years, it was one book a year. Beginning in 1991, with The Firm, there’s been at least one book a year since then. For years it was just the one big legal thriller that would come out in spring, because nobody else came out in spring, and bookstores love it. And then I was busy raising kids, coaching Little League Baseball, you know, living the good life. Once my kids were gone I had more time. After about a dozen legal thrillers, I started asking myself, can you write something else? Can you write a book with no lawyers in it? And so I started doing that. I’ve written a kids’ series and sports books. So my schedule now is to, in January, start the legal thriller. January 1st. I make myself start January 1st. I give myself six months to finish it, by July 1st. And then we spend six weeks going through all the editing and rewrites and all the drudgery. Lord, I hate it, but you’ve got to do it. And then it goes to press, with a publication date in late October to catch the Christmas market, because that’s when every publisher wants the big books now to come out.

And invariably by Labour Day I’m bored again, and I’m looking for something else to write, and so I’ll write a kids’ book or I’ll write a sports book. I still write each morning from 7am to about noon, five days a week, and still treasure those early hours in the day, with strong coffee and a big blank screen to look at, just to be able to create stories and entertain people. I still feel very fortunate to be able to do that and have no plans to slow down anytime soon.

Your books are so enormously popular. But there’s sometimes a disconnect between that and the occasional mixed review you get. I don’t even know if you read your reviews, but I wonder if you think that the first thing influences the second, that it’s possible to be too popular to be taken seriously? I made peace with that 30 years ago. I made peace with the literary critics a long, long time ago. They were pretty harsh with the first two or three books. You can’t let that dictate what you write. Tom Clancy told me a long time ago, before he died, he said, “I’ve finally reached the point where I’m reviewproof.” It’s a very good place to be. When you’re reviewproof, the critics ignore your work, and they just leave you alone. And it doesn’t matter, because you have your audience. Your goal in writing is to write a book every time out that’s really going to satisfy your audience and deliver and entertain, and that’s all I want to do. – This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

(source: The Irish Times)

MALAYSIA:

Fishmonger and farmer jointly charged with mechanic's murder

2 men have been jointly charged at a magistrate's court here with the murder of a 44-year-old mechanic in Kg Air Kuning Rantau, Linggi, about two weeks ago.

No plea was recorded from fishmonger S. Vickna Raja, 32, and cattle farmer R. Kalaichelvam, 45, after the charge was read to them before magistrate V. Vanita on Monday (Oct 25).

They were accused of killing A. Kannan, 44, between 6.30pm on Oct 12 and 8am the following day in front of a mini-market.

The charge, under Section 302 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 54 of the same Act, carries the mandatory death penalty, upon conviction.

The court denied bail and ordered both accused to be sent to Jelebu Prison, pending mention on Dec 8.

Deputy public prosecutor Fatin Nur Athirah Zainudin prosecuted while the accused were represented by Paul Krishna Raja.

Earlier at the Sessions Court in Seremban, both accused were also charged with using machetes to cause grievous hurt to the father of the deceased, V. Arumugam, 69, at the same place and time.

They claimed trial before Sessions judge Madihah Harullah.

The charge, under Section 326 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 34 of the same Act, carries a jail term of up to 20 years, a fine or whipping, upon conviction.

Madihah denied bail and fixed Nov 25 for mention.

According to the facts of the case, the two men allegedly slashed the father and son after a group of men had attacked their nephew with an iron rod.

Both victims suffered serious injuries and were rushed to the Port Dickson Hospital.

However, Kannan had to be transferred to the Tuanku Ja'afar Hospital in Seremban due to serious head injuries.

He died the following day from multiple slash wounds.

(source: The Star)

CHINA:

Why it’s time for China to revive debate over the death penalty----China has made progress, treating prisoners more humanely and narrowing the list of offences that merit capital punishment; As support for the death penalty wanes, public debate will allow citizens to understand why abolitionists oppose the idea

Earlier this month, the news of Tang Lu’s death sentence brought with it loud cheering in China. Netizens expressed views such as, “It brought universal joy to the people!” and “Even death would not be sufficient punishment for him.”

Last autumn, Tang set fire to his ex-wife, Lamu, a Tibetan vlogger with nearly a million followers, as she was live-streaming. She later died in hospital from severe burns.

As a feminist, I condemn Tang’s brutal act, but his death sentence did not bring me any joy. I passionately oppose capital punishment.

Growing up in China, I was fed the idea of “a life for a life”. At school in the 1970s, the best outings entailed trips to Nanjing stadium for the public sentencing rally. The authorities used to invite the masses, schoolchildren included, to witness the iron fist of proletarian dictatorship and draw lessons from negative examples.

After the sentencing, the condemned wore a placard stating their crimes and were paraded in open-top army trucks to the execution ground nearby. We children often ran after the truck – laughing, cheering and even throwing stones at the condemned – all the way to the killing field where bullets would rip open the prisoners’ heads.

It was George Orwell’s essay A Hanging about the execution of a criminal in (then) Burma that made me question our traditional wisdom. The author vividly describes how the prisoner, on the way to the execution ground, steps aside to avoid a puddle of rainwater and asks himself what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. The readers are inspired to ask themselves the same question.

By then, I was a grown woman, living in England for the first time. The country had abolished capital punishment in 1969. I started to ask people around me about the issue and just about every single person told me that such a practice was barbaric.

“Why?” I argued, trying China’s “life for a life” theory. I was told that a criminal was also a human being who also had a right to life.

I slowly came around to their idea and became an abolitionist. In the past few decades, I have written quite a few articles on the topic and followed the development of the issue.

In some ways, I am pleased with the progress over the years. Inmates on death row are being treated more humanely, spared the humiliation of public parades and even allowed to order their favourite dishes for their last meal. The number of criminal offences eligible for capital punishment has been steadily reduced to today’s 42.

China says it applies the death penalty only “to criminal elements who commit the most heinous crimes”. Although a state secret, the number of executions in China is believed to be in steady decline, which is in line with the global trend. Amnesty International reported 483 executions in 18 countries in 2020, a 26 % fall from the previous year. Nevertheless, China remains the world’s biggest executioner.

As part of the European and World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10, French President Emmanuel Macron made an impassioned plea to end the practice worldwide. At the same time, China rejected the draft resolution of the UN Human Rights Council on the question of capital punishment, arguing that the issue “should be based on respect of judicial rights and society needs of a country”.

Like other countries that retain the death penalty, China uses “national realities” as an excuse. What is China’s reality, then?

Some might argue that a low crime rate, stable society and economic prosperity are preconditions for considering abolition. China seems to have met all these.

In 2008, amid another round of heated debate on the death penalty prompted by Yang Jia’s high-profile sentencing to death for killing 6 policemen, I interviewed Professor Chen Weidong of Renmin University, an expert on the subject. He said he did not believe China was ready for abolition.

“China is going through drastic social and economic changes, which has to lead to rising crimes, including violent crime. We need the death penalty as a deterrent,” he told me. But no credible evidence suggests that capital punishment deters crime, and countries that have abolished it have not witnessed rising crime rates afterward.

One major obstacle lies in the deeply rooted legal culture of replacing teeth with teeth and repaying blood with blood, a harsh sense of justice that is based on revenge and at odds with a more humanistic approach.

Although most of Chinese society supports the death penalty, the percentage is gradually going down. In 1995, a survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found an overwhelming 95 % supported it. In 2003, an online survey conducted by NetEase, a popular web portal on the mainland, showed a noticeable change, with 16 % of respondents opposing the death penalty.

It is time to revive the debate. Chinese universities used to organise discussions on the topic. In 2000, I attended a seminar on the morality of the death penalty that was organised by Peking University. There have been fewer such seminars under President Xi Jinping’s draconian rule.

Public debate on the topic will allow citizens to understand why abolitionists oppose the idea. The concept of human rights and abolition of the death penalty might have originated in the West but, by now, China has adopted many of their ideas.

A healthy debate should help push China towards a more rights-oriented society and eventually one that no longer kills criminals. If China, the most prolific practitioner of capital punishment, can drop it, then the dream of ending it worldwide would be in sight.

(source: Opinion; Lijia Zhang----South China Morning Post)

BANGLADESH:

see: https://unb.com.bd/category/Bangladesh/abrar-murder-case-prosecution-seeks-capital-punishment-for-all-accused/81089

OCTOBER 24, 2021:

ALABAMA:

Catholics Pray After Alabama Executes Death Row Inmate

Alabama executed inmate Willie B. Smith III on Thursday evening, Oct. 20, marking the first execution in the state since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Smith received a lethal injection and was pronounced dead at 9:47 p.m.

Smith, 52, was sentenced to death in 1992 for the 1991 murder of Sharma Ruth Johnson, a 22-year-old woman from Trussville, Alabama. Smith kidnapped Johnson at an ATM, robbed her, and then shot her to death execution-style at a cemetery in Birmingham.

Donald Carson, communications director of the Diocese of Birmingham, told CNA Oct. 22 that the diocese “recognizes that the State must protect innocent people from violent criminals. In today’s world, however, we know that there are ways to do so other than to execute even those such as Mr. Smith, convicted of the most heinous of crimes. Society does not teach respect for life, for the dignity of every living human, by taking life. Instead, capital punishment devalues human life and contributes to a climate of violence in our communities.”

The organization Catholic Mobilizing Network, which is dedicated to ending the death penalty, stated on Twitter on Thursday that members were praying for Smith ahead of his execution.

“Dear God, You call us to be a people of justice and mercy. We know this execution is not Your will,” the group said.

Following Smith‘s execution, the group stated on Twitter, “Dear God in Heaven, we pray for the repose of Willie Smith’s soul. Lord, guide us as we work, in Your name, for a world that upholds and honors the sanctity of all human life.”

During Smith’s trial, a recording of him boasting about his crime to one of his friends was played for the court. He said at the time that he had to shoot Johnson after kidnapping her, as her brother was a police officer.

An accomplice, a 17-year-old girl who lived with Smith at the time of the murder, testified against him at his trial in exchange for a shorter prison sentence.

Smith’s death sentence has been controversial for years due to multiple factors. In 2013, his attorneys claimed that he had been given antipsychotic drugs during his trial, which left him incapable of showing emotion.

In 2019, they alleged that his IQ was 70, which is considered to be borderline intellectually disabled. It is unconstitutional to execute someone with an intellectual disability, but both the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected this appeal in Smith’s case.

Initially, Smith was set to be executed on Feb. 11, 2021. That was delayed after he requested his pastor be present with him during his final moments. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor, saying that it would be unconstitutional for the state to deprive him of a spiritual advisor while executing him.

(source: National Catholic Register)

MISSISSIPPI----impending execution

Prison chief: Mississippi preps for 1st execution since 2012

Mississippi prison employees will conduct once-a-week rehearsals as the state prepares for its 1st execution since 2012, Corrections Commissioner Burl Cain says.

Cain told The Associated Press on Friday that the rehearsals for a lethal injection are usually done once a month at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, following a protocol that's about 20 pages long.

“Very, very detailed,” Cain said.

The Mississippi Supreme on Thursday set a Nov. 17 execution date for David Neal Cox, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to killing his wife, Kim, in 2010 in the northern Mississippi town of Shannon. Cox withdrew his appeals and once filed court papers calling himself "worthy of death.” Mississippi has not had an execution since 2012, and it had 6 that year.

Cain confirmed Mississippi has obtained lethal injection drugs, but he declined to say how.

“I’m not supposed to talk about the drugs too much,” Cain said.

Mississippi is still facing a lawsuit filed in 2015 by the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center on behalf of 2 inmates. The suit argues Mississippi’s lethal injection protocol is inhumane.

Several states have had trouble finding drugs for lethal injections in recent years since pharmaceutical companies in the United States and Europe began blocking the use of their drugs for executions.

According to court papers, Cox shot his wife twice and then sexually assaulted his stepdaughter in front of a dying Kim Cox while police negotiators and relatives pleaded for her life. David Cox pleaded guilty to sexual battery, kidnapping and other crimes without making a bargain with prosecutors that precluded the death penalty. A jury sentenced him to death.

Union County Circuit Court Judge Kent Smith ruled in April that Cox, 50, was mentally competent to waive his appeals. The Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel appealed Smith's ruling. Justices on Thursday affirmed Smith's decision and denied the appeal by the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel.

Cox wrote to the chief justice of Mississippi Supreme Court in August 2018 saying he wanted to fire his lawyers, relinquish all appeals and get an execution date.

In the ruling Thursday, justices wrote that in November 2018, Cox filed court papers saying “I am worthy of death."

Justices had ordered the circuit judge to hold a competency hearing. Attorneys representing Cox argued he was mentally ill and not competent to waive his appeals. They also argued it would be unconstitutional for the state to execute him.

(source: Associated Press)

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 1st 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 required weighing whether a death sentence was appropriate if an offender, “because of a mental disease or defect, lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of the offender’s conduct,” at the time of the crime. That requirement was not a precursor to an automatic execution ban.

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.

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 four 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 three-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 one-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)

OKLAHOMA:

6 Men on Oklahoma Death Row File Injunctions to Halt Executions on Basis of Being Required to Choose Own Execution Method

As of late October 2021, six men incarcerated in Oklahoma on death row are in the process of filing injunctions to halt their upcoming executions in protest of being required to choose their own execution method.

The hearing, however, isn’t scheduled until after all of their execution dates.

The men on Oklahoma’s death row claim that it is against their religious beliefs to have to choose their own death sentence and hope the federal district court will halt their executions.

One of the people incarcerated, John Grant, is scheduled to be the 1st execution in Oklahoma in 6 years – he is scheduled to be killed on Oct. 28, 2021 if the injunction is not granted.

The plaintiffs argue that it would be against their religious beliefs if they were to participate in an execution. They believe that choosing their execution method “demonstrates a hostility towards religion generally,” forcing them to “either violate their sincerely held religious beliefs or face imminent execution.”

Oklahoma has had a rocky past with how the state has proceeded with capital punishment. A common three-drug combination has been used to execute people, which has included the sedative midazolam, a paralytic, and potassium chloride.

In recent years, however, Oklahoma has swapped potassium chloride with potassium acetate, leading to faulty executions that has left people on death row writhing in pain in their last moments on earth.

Additionally, faulty procedural techniques, such as injecting the drugs into tissue instead of the bloodstream, and the use of paralytics has been a widely controversial aspect of death row executions.

Injection into tissue instead of into the bloodstream prolongs the time it takes for people to die and the use of paralytics is primarily used to mask the pain and suffering they feel during the execution process.

Botched executions, including the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014 and Charles Warner in 2015 due to the misuse of the 3-drug combination, add to evidence that incarcerated men on Oklahoma death row are hoping to use in their argument for a halt to their executions.

Many advocates for men like Grant argue against the death penalty as a whole, citing many different reasons, the primary of which being that it violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Another reason provided by advocates against capital punishment is a primary concern of death penalty advocates; money. Supporters of capital punishment frequently stipulate that it is more economically feasible than other options; however, advocates against it say this isn’t true.

According to a recent study conducted by Amnesty International, median death penalty cases cost $1.26 million tax dollars each year, whereas non-death penalty cases through the end of incarceration average around $740,000 per case.

Activists supporting Grant cite the argument that the death penalty does not effectively deter crime, and law enforcement recently reported that more efficient deterrence includes; increasing police officers, reducing drug abuse, and creating a better economy with more jobs.

Lastly, advocates refer to the number of known innocent people sentenced to death; last year, at least one person was exonerated for every 10 that were executed. For example, there is one currently known innocent man incarcerated on death row in Oklahoma – Julius Jones.

Despite maintaining his innocence for 19 years, his case containing clear evidence of contamination and racism, and compelling evidence that he was wrongfully convicted, Jones is set to be executed by Governor Kevin Stitt and the State of Oklahoma on the 18th of November.

Attorney General John O’Connor, ruled unqualified by the American Bar Association, refused to call off executions that are scheduled before the date of the trial case, leaving men like Grant and Jones abandoned.

The district court will be holding a hearing on the preliminary injunction motion Monday, Oct. 25, while Grant is scheduled to be executed three days later.

The hearing for the case isn’t set until February of 2022, regarding the constitutional rights of Grant, Jones, Bigler Stouffer, Wade Lay, Donald Grant, and Gilbert Postelle – all but 2 are men of color, and of them scheduled to be executed before the hearing.

(source: The Davis Vanguard)

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

EDITORIAL: It’s time for Oklahoma to get rid of the death penalty

Beginning this Thursday, the state of Oklahoma plans to kill 7 people over the next 5 months.

The last few times Oklahoma attempted to execute death row inmates, it botched the procedures so badly — using the wrong drug and an improper IV setup, in separate cases — that the state stayed executions while a grand jury investigated the process.

But it doesn’t actually matter how competent the killing process is — it’s wrong, even if it doesn’t suspend someone’s death for 43 minutes while they suffer on the gurney, as Clayton Lockett did in 2014. It’s time, for a number of reasons, for Oklahoma to change its stance on the death penalty.

First, there’s the issue of the sanctity of human life, a topic Oklahoma talks about constantly in the context of abortion.

In a story about incoming abortion restrictions published late last month, Gov. Kevin Stitt told The Frontier he would sign restrictive abortion bills that passed his desk, because he considers every pregnancy to be a life. The following excerpt stands out:

"Stitt told The Frontier he has considered the concerns of providers and reproductive rights advocates about the loss of abortion access and the lack of exemptions for rape or incest, but he believes each pregnancy is ‘a life.’

“‘And I’m going to err on that side. and there’s all kinds of what ifs that people try to play with you,” he said of the lack of exemptions. “At the end of the day, if you have a heartbeat, we’re resolute that we should not take a life.’”

The quote communicates what the state believes about life at the beginning, but the logic doesn’t seem to carry over to the state’s view of people convicted of crimes.

If we are actually “resolute that we should not take a life,” and if we want to say life has value and deserves protection, how can we kill seven men with the power of the state? A person convicted of a heinous crime is still a life, still a person with a family, still deserving of dignity. The death penalty is not dignity.

National attention has gone to Julius Jones’ case, and deservedly so. The details of his case beg the question of whether he ever should have been incarcerated.

But 6 other men are also waiting to be put to death by the state. In a conversation about the merits of the death penalty, our argument is not that only innocent people or people who may have been falsely accused deserve not to die — guilty people deserve life, too.

Still, concern about executing the innocent is becoming more and more of a public issue. Pew Research, in poll results released this summer, found that even though 60% of U.S. adults support the death penalty for someone convicted of murder, 56% of those surveyed say Black people are more likely to be sentenced to death than white people for committing similar crimes, while 78% believe there’s the risk that an innocent person will be executed. Just 30% of those who solidly support the death penalty believe adequate safeguards exist to keep innocent people from execution.

The majority of people surveyed (63%) by Pew also believe the death penalty is not a deterrent to committing serious crimes.

The belief is backed by the fact that the death penalty is applied arbitrarily — some people receive life in prison for murder; some get the death penalty. A 2013 report from the Death Penalty Information Center said that just 2% of the counties in the United States were responsible for the majority of the death penalty sentences handed down since 1976; all of the death penalty cases from 1976 to 2013 occurred in just 15% of U.S. counties.

In 1972, even the Supreme Court of the United States ruled, in Furman v. Georgia, that the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment because it was allowed to be “so wantonly and so freakishly imposed.” In noting the discrepancies in death penalty sentences, Justice William Douglas wrote that “the discretion of judges and juries in imposing the death penalty enables the penalty to be selectively applied, feeding prejudices against the accused if he is poor and despised, and lacking political clout, or if he is a member of a suspect or unpopular minority, and saving those who by social position may be in a more protected position.”

There’s also evidence that supports the notion that the death penalty doesn’t deter serious crimes. A 2009 Columbia Law study that showed the homicide trends between Hong Kong, which abolished the death penalty in 1993, and Singapore, which had one of the highest execution rates in the world in the mid-90s, were similar from 1973-2008.

If the death penalty is arbitrarily applied in just a few places in the country, and a majority of us agree it does not turn people away from committing crime with the promise of execution, what is it for?

Certainly not the benefit of our state. Along with being cruel and unusual, the death penalty is fiscally irresponsible.

In 2017, the bipartisan Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission found the state spends 1.5 times more to jail a death penalty defendant pre-trial than a defendant not facing the death penalty, The Tulsa World reported. Once in prison, those sentenced with the death penalty cost the state twice as much to house as other incarcerated people.

Reviews elsewhere find that between the time a death penalty case takes to go through the court system and the cost of housing people sentenced to death, states spend significantly more to put someone to death than they do to incarcerate someone for life without parole.

The above facts lead us to question what we want our justice system to be about. If we agree the justice system exists to inflict pain and retribution on people who do wrong, then the death penalty fits.

But if we agree that the justice system exists to bring a measure of healing after pain, to build up people to be stronger and wiser, to help create a society where individuals do not see crime as a solution to their problems or pain, the death penalty does not fit. It offers no second chances, no shot at healing or growing and no deterrent to crime, while costing Oklahomans far more than any alternative would. It’s simply the end of a life.

The death penalty is wrong because it repays death with death. It’s wrong because it begets suffering. and it’s wrong because all human life has value, no matter what a person has or hasn’t done.

It’s time for Oklahoma to abolish the death penalty.

(source: The Editorial Board of the Norman Transcript)

CALIFORNIA:

CRIME HUNTER: Serial killer Cynthia Coffman longest serving woman on death row----Convicted serial killer Cynthia Coffman has spent more time on death row than any other American woman.

No living woman has spent longer on an American death row than Cynthia Coffman.

The most recent tally has her caged at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, in the Golden State’s central interior, about 400 km northwest of Los Angeles, for the past 32 years, 1 month and 20 days.

Coffman, now 59, was the first woman sentenced to the big adios after California reinstated the death penalty in 1977.

Coffman was raised a devout Catholic in a wealthy St. Louis family but when she became pregnant at 17, her charmed young life was turned upside down. She would end up marrying the father of her child but the marriage was miserable — and violent.

After 5 years of domestic horror, Coffman had enough, packed her bags and fled to Arizona. Her new relationship with a low-rent dope dealer soured when the pair was busted for running a red light in California.

Cops found the loaded handgun — and the meth — in Coffman’s purse. The charges against her were eventually dismissed but during this juncture, Coffman would meet the man who would change her life.

Her boyfriend’s cellmate was a dude named James Gregory Marlow. He was a car thief and just finished a 3-year jolt at famed Folsom Prison.

Behind bars, he developed an affinity for the jailbird’s version of the Third Reich: Neo-Nazi prison gang, the Aryan Brotherhood and pals called him the “Folsom Wolf.”

Marlow and Coffman fell in love and she ditched her prior boyfriend.

On the highways and byways of America, the pair committed petty crimes, the odd armed robbery and other items in the small-time crook’s repertoire. In Tennessee, the pair married and, in a romantic gesture, Coffman had “I belong to the Folsom Wolf” tattooed on her rear-end.

And then the killing started.

***

In Costa Mesa, California, on Oct. 11, 1986, Coffman and Marlow kidnapped, raped and murdered Sandra Neary, 32. In Bullhead City, Arizona, on Oct. 28, 1986, the couple kidnapped Pamela Simmons, 35, as she used an ATM.

On Nov. 7, 1986, the killers struck again in Calfiornia. This time the victim was Corinna Novis, 20, who was also kidnapped and murdered after taking cash out of a bank machine. On Nov. 12, 1986, the pair grabbed Lynel Murray from a shopping mall parking lot in the middle of the day.

2 days later her body was found in a sleazy Huntington Beach motel room. She had been raped and strangled.

***

It was sloppiness that would eventually stop the killers in their tracks.

Novis’ cheque book was discovered in a dumpster with a discarded fast food bag that contained papers carrying Coffman and Marlow’s names. Detectives began plotting their journey of death that revealed their hotel stays in places where they had murdered.

On Nov. 14, 1986, the suspicious owner of a lodge in Big Bear, California tipped off cops that the couple were guests. Coffman and Marlow were nabbed hiking on a nearby mountain.

Both were wearing outfits stolen from the dry cleaners where Murray worked.

Coffman broke fast and led cops to Novis’ body. She had been sodomized and strangled.

In a San Bernardino County courtroom on July 18, 1989, a jury sentenced the pair death.

3 years later, Coffman told the Orange County Register she was scared.

“I’m afraid of the death penalty … but I’d hope to go to a better place than here,” she told the newspaper. “But I’d still rather have life.”

(source: torontosun.com)

IRAN:

At Least 141 Hanged Since Raisi’s Presidency; 31 in the Past 30 Days

NCRI logoTerrified of the Iranian people’s rage and hatred, the mullahs’ criminal regime has stepped up repression, torture, and executions in a desperate attempt to terrorize the public and prevent the outbreak of protests and uprisings. At least 31 prisoners have been hanged in various Iranian cities in the past 30 days alone, bringing to at least 141 the number of executions after Ebrahim Raisi and Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eje’i became President and the Judiciary Chief, respectively on July 21, 2021.

On October 19, Ali Mohammad Mohammadi, 45, and his brother, Eslam Mohammadi, 38, from Ramhormoz, were executed in Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz. Shocked by their execution, their mother died of a heart attack. The residents of Ramhormoz protested this criminal act but the repressive forces brutally attacked them, wounding and arresting a group of them.

On October 20, in another criminal act, a Baluch prisoner was hanged in Zahedan Central Prison despite being 80% blind.

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. The flagrant violations of human rights in Iran must be referred to the UN Security Council, and the regime’s leaders must be brought to justice for 4 decades of crimes against humanity and genocide.

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

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

Former political prisoners and martyrs’ families seek justice for victims of the 1988 massacre

Speeches by Parvaneh Madanchi, Zohreh Rastegar, and Fahimeh Moaveni at the gathering of the Iranian Resistance supporters in Stockholm during Hamid Noury’s trial.

Several former political prisoners, families, and witnesses seeking justice for the 1988 massacre in Iran gave speeches in a gathering near the Court of Stockholm, where Hamid Noury, one of the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre, is on trial. Following are excerpts of some of their speeches.

Former political prisoner Parvaneh Madanchi

Ms. Parvaneh Madanchi is a former political prisoner from the 1980s and among the witnesses seeking justice for the 1988 massacre. In her speech to a gathering in Stockholm, she said, “From June 14, 1981, till December 12, 1987, I was imprisoned in the following prisons: Jahanbani Stable, Ghezel Hesar, a residential unit, Evin, and Gohardasht Prison.”

“One of my cellmates, Tahmineh Sotoudeh, who was the only daughter of the Sotoudeh family and meant everything to her mother, was arrested on September 27, 1981. At the time of her arrest, she was 16 years old. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison. She was hanged in the 1988 massacre.”

“Those days, I witnessed many prisoners being tortured, including 3 of my cellmates, Shekar Mohammadzadeh, Mojgan Sorabi, and Mahtab Khalkhali. But as a part of the campaign seeking justice for the victims of the 1988 massacre, I will not give up and will continue to seek justice for those loved ones.”

Zohreh RastegarZohreh Rastegar

Speech of another political prisoner

On August 19, at the gathering of protesters seeking justice for victims of the massacre, Zohreh Rastegar, a former political prisoner said, “My brother Abbas Rastegar was a political prisoner during the Shah’s reign. He and his wife, Maryam Zibar, who was 5 months pregnant, were both executed during the time of Khomeini’s dictatorship. Maryam was executed on the same day as her only brother, Mohammad Ali Zibar. They were the only two children of their family. 2 of my 17-year-old cousins were also executed by Khomeini’s executioners. The name of one of them was Jalil Rezaei.”

Sister of 2 martyrs Fahimeh Moaveni

Fahimeh Moaveni, a family member of one of the PMOI’s martyrs, was another speaker at the gathering in Stockholm. She said,” My brother, Alireza Moaveni, was arrested in Tehran at the age of 18 on September 5,1981, and was imprisoned in Evin Prison. He was martyred on September 27, 1981 – only 14 days after his arrest. According to his cellmates, he was a very responsible and caring person who helped other prisoners while he was in prison.”

“Also, my 25-year-old sister, Maliheh Moaveni, was arrested in Tehran in 1983. She was the mother of two children aged 4 and 6. On November 11, 1984, she was martyred under torture after 14 months of imprisonment. I remember that my parents were able to visit her for the first tine 6 months after her arrest. My parents went to Evin to see Maliheh with her children. The 4-year-old didn’t recognize her and shouted, “That is not my mother!” My father said Maliheh looked 30 years older than her age. My mother asked her, “what happened?” and she said, “If a child can ever tell what it was like in her mother’s womb before being born, then I can tell you what is happening here!”

“They never give us their bodies and till this day we do not know exactly where they are buried.”

In her speech, Fahimeh also mentioned that in addition to her sister and brother, two of her relatives named Mohsen and Hossein Seyed Ahmadi were also executed. Mohsen was arrested in 1979 while selling newspapers published by the Resistance. After 9 years in prison, he and his brother, Hossein, were executed in the 1988 massacre. Mohsen’s father had asked him several times, “Why don’t they release you? You weren’t in the 1981 protests.” Mohsen replied, “I was asked to do an interview and I refused.”

In concluding her speech, Fahimeh highlighted: “We tell these perpetrators that neither hiding the crime, nor hiding the martyrs’ graves, nor making the victims unidentifiable will be able to stop the Iranian people’s movement for justice.”

(source: women.ncr-iran.org)

CHINA:

‘Give him a way out’: Elderly parents plead for Hongkonger facing death penalty in China despite his history of mental illness ---- "We hope the authorities could give him a way out... I don’t want us, the silver-haired, to watch the younger one pass away," said the mother of Wu Chi-man.

A Hong Kong man with a history of mental illness may soon be executed in mainland China, where he was sentenced to death in 2017 for drug trafficking. His elderly parents are now in Shenzhen waiting for their 1st – and perhaps last – visit to him as they made a desperate appeal to the authorities to spare their son.

50-year-old Wu Chi-man has been on death row for almost 5 years, after he admitted dealing 15 kilograms of methamphetamine in Shenzhen in March 2016. He appealed against his sentence in late 2017 but it was upheld.

Wu’s family had not seen him for years until they were notified by mainland authorities about three weeks ago that a meeting could be arranged next Thursday. Believing it may be the only chance to see him, Wu’s 80-year-old father and 78-year-old mother packed their bags quickly and brought along bottles of medication they needed for their indefinite trip to Shenzhen.

“We are quite helpless and clueless, we don’t know what will happen. Everything is still uncertain,” Wu’s father told HKFP by phone on Wednesday, when he and his wife were 5 days away from completing the 21-day compulsory Covid-19 quarantine.

“Chi-man is not an evil man. He only failed to resist the temptation and committed the crime because of poverty…” — Wu Chi-man’s mother

Wu’s parents have sought a retrial and appealed for a more lenient penalty, saying their son’s psychiatric history was not considered by the mainland courts. In a letter to the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing in November last year, with copies to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the Immigration Department, Wu’s mother cited hospital records to show that her son has suffered from polysubstance abuse, hallucinations and adjustment disorder, among other mental health issues.

“Chi-man is not an evil man. He only failed to resist the temptation and committed the crime because of poverty… and he was troubled by his long-term mental issues,” Wu’s mother surnamed Chan wrote in the letter. She also appealed for a lighter sentence on the basis of his guilty plea and the fact that he had no prior criminal record in the mainland.

Speaking to HKFP by phone, Chan choked up when she was asked about the upcoming meeting with her son. She said she fears that her son, who has been known to mental health services in Hong Kong since 2000, may not be receiving any appropriate psychiatric treatment whilst in detention.

Chan said her husband told her to hold back her tears when they visit Wu next week, so that he “would feel better.” She said the five years Wu spent in detention “were very difficult,” pleading with the Chinese authorities to give him “a chance to correct himself.”

“We hope the authorities could give him a way out… I don’t want us, the silver-haired, to watch the younger one pass away,” she said.

China was named the world’s leading executioner by Amnesty International in its annual report on the death penalty published in April. But the true extent of the use of capital punishment was unknown as such figures were classified as a state secret, it said.

In response to HKFP’s enquiries about the number of Hong Kong citizens sentenced to death in China between 2016 and 2020, the Security Bureau said it did not have such figures.

#PressingOn: Hong Kong Free Press 2021 Funding Drive – support press freedom, help us expand & surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons It remains unclear why Wu’s mental health history was not mentioned in the trial or the appeal, said Hannah, a volunteer from a group called Voice for Prisoners who has helped with Wu’s case since September last year. The NGO volunteer, who used a pseudonym in fear of reprisal, said Wu’s appeal letter made no reference to his medical condition.

In urging the High People’s Court of Guangdong province to revoke the death penalty, Wu’s lawyer said there was another suspect in the case who was never arrested, according to a court document seen by HKFP.

It was therefore “extremely unfair” to sentence Wu to death, the lawyer said, as the lower court did not examine the roles played by Wu and the suspect on the loose, and their respective degree of criminal liability.

Hannah, who assisted Wu’s almost-illiterate mother in penning the letter to the authorities, said they reached out to the Immigration Department’s hotline again before Wu’s parents left for Shenzhen. The agency, however, said it did not have the expertise or authority to offer much assistance, except to provide information on how to obtain health codes needed for travelling to the mainland amid the pandemic.

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, the immigration department said it had flagged Wu’s situation to the Beijing Office and Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong. The department would “maintain close contact” with the family and “render all practicable assistance,” it added.

The Hong Kong Joint Committee on the Abolition of the Death Penalty filed a petition to the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong on Tuesday last week, urging the Chinese authorities to halt Wu’s execution and grant him a new trial. They also asked Chinese leader Xi Jinping to pardon Wu.

“It would be unfair for [Wu] to be sentenced to death in the absence of a mental health assessment and a fair trial,” the group said.

It may be a systemic failure. With better support, not only medical but social… maybe he would not have fallen for quick money. I guess that’s my biggest takeaway.

John Wotherspoon, an Australian priest in Hong Kong who offered assistance to Wu’s family after meeting them last year, told HKFP the case calls for better communication between the authorities in the city and in China when Hongkongers are detained across the border.

“It’s good for everyone. It clears up uncertainties and doubts, and makes everything more transparent. The idea of people being imprisoned, being out of touch and communication, that whole area should be transparent for everybody’s sake,” said Wotherspoon.

It is widely understood that those on death row in mainland may face execution shortly after they are offered a chance to see their family, Hannah said. She hoped Wu’s case would show the city that it needs to pour more resources into supporting those with mental health problems.

“It may be a systemic failure. With better support, not only medical but social… maybe he would not have fallen for quick money. I guess that’s my biggest takeaway.”

(source: hongkongfp.com)

JAPAN:

Death penalty sought for ex-nurse over murders of 3 patients

Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for a former nurse, accused of killing 3 patients by putting a disinfectant into their intravenous drips at a Yokohama hospital near Tokyo in 2016.

Ayumi Kuboki, 34, has admitted to premeditatedly mixing an antiseptic solution into the drip bags, causing the patients to die, in a high-profile lay judge trial at the Yokohama District Court.

Prosecutors pointed out that while the defendant exhibited traits of autism, she was fully competent to stand trial, and the disorder did not affect her decision-making or play a part in her carrying out the crimes.

The defense counsel argued in the trial that Kuboki had a diminished capacity at the time of the crimes brought on by schizophrenia.

According to the indictment, Kuboki killed 3 inpatients -- Sozo Nishikawa, 88, Asae Okitsu, 78, and Nobuo Yamaki, 88 -- at the erstwhile Oguchi Hospital, by injecting disinfectant into their IV drip bags in September 2016 with the intention of killing them.

Prosecutors said Kuboki set the timing of the IV drips so that the patients would die after she was already off duty to avoid having to deal with the families over their deaths.

"She acted very selfishly...although she was in a position to protect people who are socially vulnerable," prosecutors said.

Ahead of the prosecutors' arguments, Nishikawa's daughter gave a statement before the court.

"I can hardly think the defendant felt remorse over what she did. I want her to atone for her crimes with death," she said, referring to the defendant who repeatedly responded, "I do not remember," during questioning.

The verdict will be handed down on Nov 9.

(source: Japan Today

BANGLADESH:

State wants death penalty for 25 accused in Abrar murder trial

The state side in the case lodged over the murder of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) student Abrar Fahad, today pleaded to sentence all the 25 accused to death for their role in the brutal killing.

Chief prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kazal made the plea in his closing arguments in the sensational case at Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal-1. < P> "The accused have been charged in this murder case. They have killed a man after waking him up from his sleep. Abrar's family cried their hearts out, the whole nation cried for this boy. All the accused are educated. I am expecting death penalty for them," Advocate Kazal said.

After his conclusion, plaintiff's counsel Abdus Sobhan Tarafder started placing his part of arguments in the case, but failed to conclude today. Judge Abu Zafar Md Kamaruzzaman of Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 after that adjourned the hearing till tomorrow.

The tribunal on September 8 framed charges in the case afresh. A total 46 out of 60 prosecution witnesses have testified in the sensational case.

Earlier on November 13, 2019, Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Judge Court took into cognizance the charge sheet in the case filed by Detective Branch (DB) of police against 25 accused. The case was later transferred to the speedy trial tribunal, allowing a plea of Abrar's father.

The tribunal on September 15, 2020, had framed charges against all 25 accused in the case.

The 25 accused are - Mehedi Hasan Russel, Anik Sarker, Ifti Mosharraf Sakal, Md Mehedi Hasan Robin, Md Meftahul Islam Jeon, Muntassir Alam Jemmy, Khandaker Tabakkharul Islam Tanvir, Md Muzahidur Rahman, Muhtasim Fuad, Md Moniruzzaman Monir, Md Akash Hossain, Hossain Mohammad Toha, Md Mazedul Islam, Shamim Billah, Moaj Abu Hurayra, ASM Nazmus Sadat, Istiak Ahammed Munna, Amit Saha, Md Mizanur Rahman alias Mizan, Shamsul Arefin Rafat, SM Mahmud Setu, Morsheduzzaman Jisan, Ehteshamul Rabbi Tanim, Morshed Amatya Islam and Mostaba Rafid. Of these, Jisan, Rafid and Tanim are yet to be arrested and are tried in absentia.

According to the police, of the 25 accused, 11 took part in the gruesome murder directly and the other played role in the crime one way or another. Of those arrested, 8 have given confessional statements before the court.

BUET students and the varsity authorities found the seemingly lifeless body of Abrar, 22, on first-floor stairs of Sher-e-Bangla Hall and rushed him to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), where doctors declared him dead at around 6.30 am on October 7, 2019.

He was allegedly beaten to death by a couple of leaders of the then BUET unit of Chhatra League over his posts on Facebook.

Abrar's father filed the case with Chawkbazar Police Station against 19. Later police included names of the other accused after finding their involvement during the probe.

(source: tbsnews.net)

ZAMBIA:

The Perspective by Edward Bwalya Phiri: death penalty violates the tight and sanctity of life

Amnesty International Director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena once posited that, “Governments that are continuing to use death penalty thinking that it will reduce crime are only misleading themselves.”

And the Pontiff, Pope Francis, once opined that, “No one ought to be deprived not only of life, but also of a chance for a moral and existential redemption that can in turn benefit the community.”

On The Perspective today, consideration is on the death penalty, which is also known as capital punishment. It is referred to as such because it is a punishment that is reserved for crimes that are categorised as capital crimes, or very serious crimes. In Zambia, for example, crimes that carry a death sentence are treason, murder and aggravated robbery.

It must be appreciated that criminal punishment serves a number of purposes. So, there exist penological theories [purposes] or justification for punishment [sentencing]; among them are retribution, incapacitation, deterrence [specific and general], denunciation, rehabilitation and restitution. In order to achieve these objectives, judges and magistrates are guided by the principles of parsimony, proportionality, parity and totality.

It can therefore be said that even the death penalty is either necessitated or justified by the foregoing theories. But the American Civil Liberty Union [ACLU] proffers that, “The death penalty is uncivilized in theory and unfair and inequitable in practice.” Further, the ACLU argues that death penalty, “…is cruel because it is a relic of the earliest days of the penology, when slavery, branding, and other corporal punishments were commonplace. Like those barbaric practices, executions have no place in a civilised society.”

For a long time now, there have been calls to completely abolish death penalty globally. In 1989, the United Nations enacted the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR]. The protocol seeks to abolish death penalty. However, a good number of countries are yet to accede to, and domesticate this protocol. Unfortunately, Zambia is among the countries that have not parties to this optional treaty.

In 2003, an international alliance of non-governmental organisations [NGOs], bar associations, trade unions with the objective of strengthening the international dimension of the fight against the death penalty, the World Coalition Against Death Penalty [WCADP] organised the first World Day Against Death Penalty. And it has become an annual fixture on the calendar and is supported by a number of State governments and Non-Governmental Organisations [NGOs]. The objective of this day is advocacy for abolition of the death penalty.

The World Day Against Death Penalty falls on October 10, annually coinciding with the International Mental Health Awareness. And this year’s theme sought to shine a light on the discrimination faced by women and its resultant consequences such as a death sentence. It is estimated that there are about 800 women on death row globally. In Zambia, the celebration was held on October 14 under the theme; Women and the Death Penalty, an invisible Reality.

According to statistics, about 109 countries in the world have completely abolished the death penalty, including 30 out of the 54 African states. While 28 countries are de facto abolitionists worldwide, 55 are still retentionists of capital punishment. Currently, there are 32,994 convicts, on the death row globally, and 2,397 executions have so far been effected this year alone.

Zambia is considered as one of the de facto abolitionists, because it has not carried out executions in a long time. The last President to have signed the death warrant was Fredrick Jacob Titus Chiluba, who in January 1997 authorised the execution of eight convicts who had been sentenced to death for up to 15 years at the time. Therefore, Zambia has become an ‘Abolitionist de facto’ country or ‘Abolitionist in Practice’, because of the Presidential moratorium on executions by successive Presidents.

In 2015 July 16, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu commuted sentences of 332 convicts on death row to life imprisonment. Amnesty International lauded the action and called it a ‘triumph for the right to life’ and further called the President to completely abolish the death penalty, which violates the right to life as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR].

Further, in January 2021, President Lungu again commuted sentences for 246 inmates at Mukobeko Maximum Correctional Facility in Kabwe, and this number included 21 females from the Mukobeko Female Correctional Centre.

It is trite that the death penalty is not only inhumane and cruel, but also an affront on the African humanistic philosophy of Ubuntu. In the penal science perspective, Ubuntu concerns itself with the severity of the punishment and it is mostly premised on rehabilitation as the preferred penological theory as opposed to the others. Ultimately, Ubuntu vouches for the effecting of penal clemency and reformation of criminals.

And being an African nation, Zambia must adhere to the African identity and solidarity of Ubuntu. Because that is what defines who we are. The spirit of Ubuntu makes us to be human, feel for others and be one with others. We must therefore not entertain the thoughts of killing others as a means of meting out punishment. There are other ways of censuring deviant elements in society.

On May 8, 2021 this column published an article title: ‘There is no justice in killing in the name of justice’, where it was postulated that, “In order to abolish capital punishment in Zambia, the starting point would be to accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, remove the Constitutional derogation on the right to life as provided for in Article 12(1) [through a referendum], remove death penalty by repealing sections; 24(a) [Death sentence], 25 [Death by hanging], 43 [Death as penalty for treason], 201(1) (a) [Death as penalty for murder] and 294(2) [Death as penalty for aggravated robbery] of the Penal Code Act, Cap 87.”

Further, the article proffered that, “…the international community should consider electing or designating the right to life as peremptory norm, which is also known as a Jus Cogens. [The Oxford University Press (2009) defines the jus cogens as a rule or a principle in international law that is so fundamental that it binds all states and does not allow exceptions. Such rules (sometimes called peremptory norms) will only amount to jus cogens rules if they are recognised as such by the international community as a whole.] This will compel every nation to completely abolish the death penalty… It must be noted that capital punishment has been retained by a number of countries because of derogation that is attached to the right to life. I advocate that, in the quest to dispense justice; we must use more of reason than emotions.”

Therefore, the call to Zambia’s ‘New Dawn’ government, under the leadership of President Hakainde Hichilema is that, this issue must be considered with the seriousness it deserves. Being an abolitionist in practice is not enough, because that hypothetical moratorium only survives on the good will of the sitting President.

Deprose Muchena urged that, “Zambia must build on its own achievements and join other countries around the world that are moving away from using the death penalty.” It’s high time we made progress as a country, just as other progressive societies in the world; death penalty must be outlawed in Zambia completely.

Human life is sacrosanct, and must be considered as inviolable. ACLU urges countries to abolish the capital punishment because, “Its imposition is often arbitrary, and always irrevocable – forever depriving an individual an opportunity to benefit from new evidence and new laws that might warrant the reversal of a conviction, or set aside of a death sentence.” For today I will end here; it’s Au revoir, from EBP.

(source: The Mast)

OCTOBER 23, 2021:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas Schedules Execution of Ramiro Gonzales for November 17, 2021

Ramiro Felix Gonzales is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm local time, on Wednesday, November 17, 2021, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. 38-year-old Ramiro is convicted of the murder of 19-year-old Bridget Townsend on January 15, 2001, in Bandera, Texas. Ramiro has spent the last 14 years on Texas’ death row.

While pregnant with him, Ramiro’s mother allegedly used drugs and then abandoned him after his birth. Ramiro was primarily raised by his grandmother and was allegedly sexually abused by a male relative. He dropped out of school after the 7th grade and was using drugs and alcohol regularly by the age of 12. Prior to his arrest, he worked as a welder and a fence builder.

In 2003, Ramiro Gonzales was in Bandera County jail awaiting transport to a prison, after being convicted of abducting and raping a woman. While waiting, Gonzales asked to speak with Sheriff James MacMillian. Gonzales told the Sheriff that he had information about Bridget Townsend, a teenager who had disappeared 2 years earlier. Initially, the Sheriff did not believe Gonzales, but when Gonzales offered to take the Sheriff to the location of Bridget’s body, the Sheriff became interested.

Sitting in the passenger seat, Gonzales directed the Sheriff to a ranch where Gonzales lived with his family, but they did not stop at the ranch. They continued driving over jeep trails to a remote cedar-covered hillside. Gonzales, the Sheriff, and a jail administrator exited the vehicle. During the 100 yard walk to Bridgett’s remains, Gonzales described the jewelry she had been wearing, wear she had been standing when he shot her, and where he had put the body. A human skull, along with other bones, were found close to the location where Gonzales claimed to have shot her. The bones had been slightly scattered by wildlife.

During the drive back to the jail, Gonzales gave conflicting stories about the night when Bridget was shot. Initially, Gonzales blamed the Mexican Mafia and Bridget’s boyfriend, Joe Leal, saying they hired him. Then he claimed that he and Joe had agreed to kill Bridget. The conflicting stories continued once they returned to the jail. Finally, Gonzales confessed that all his previous stories were lies and that he was solely responsible for Bridget’s death. This version, for which he gave a signed confession, matched the evidence that was discovered during the investigation.

Joe Leal had been Gonzales’ drug dealer. On January 14, 2001, Gonzales had phoned Joe’s house to obtain more drugs. Bridget answered the phone, saying Joe was at work. Gonzales, knowing Bridget was at the house, decided to drive over and steal some cocaine. Gonzales pushed his way past Bridget after she answered the door. He continued to ignore Bridget while her stole between $150 and $500 in cash.

When Bridget began calling Joe, Gonzales dragged her into a bedroom and tied her up. He asked if Joe had any drugs in the house. When she responded negatively, he took her out to this truck, pausing to turn out the lights so that they would not be spotted. Gonzales drove back to the ranch, stopping to pick up his grandfather’s .243 caliber deer rifle.

Gonzales confessed that he had planned to shoot Bridget so that no one would know he had robbed Joe, nor that he had kidnapped Bridget. He drove Bridget to the spot where her remains were later found and forced Bridget to walk towards the brush as he began loading the rifle. Bridget promised money, drugs, or sex if Gonzales would spare her life. Gonzales unloaded the weapon, and took her back to the truck to assault her; after which, he, again, took her into the brush and shot her.

Gonzales then returned home and interacted with his family as though nothing was wrong. He had returned to the weapon to where he retrieved it and flung the empty shell casing away from the house. Gonzales also denied, multiple times, seeing Bridget that night or visiting Joe’s house.

During Gonzales’ trial, a women who he had kidnapped and raped, testified that she believed she would have been killed if she had not managed to escape.

This is not Ramiro Gonzales’ first scheduled execution date. He has had at least two previous executions dates that were stayed for unknown reasons.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Bridget. Please pray for strength for the family of Ramiro. Pray that if Ramiro is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please pray that Ramiro will come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already found one.

(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)

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Commentary: Past time to abolish the death penalty in Texas

John Henry Ramirez's execution has been delayed over the question of whether a pastor can lay hands on him as he dies by lethal injection.

It was a truly senseless murder.

John Henry Ramirez and 2 female companions killed Pablo Castro, a father of 9, in Corpus Christi in 2004. Castro was taking out trash at a convenience store where he worked when he was attacked.

Ramirez stabbed Castro 29 times. The robbery and murder netted Ramirez $1.25. Ramirez and the 2 women had been on a 3-day drug binge.

The 2 women were arrested the night of the murder, but Ramirez fled to Mexico and was not arrested until more than 3 years later. He was sentenced to death and has been on death row since 2009.

Ramirez was to be executed by lethal injection last month. However, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice refused to allow his minister to lay hands on him and say prayers at the execution, prompting the U.S. Supreme Court to grant Ramirez a stay of execution. The Supreme Court will hear the case later this year.

The case raises a number of constitutional questions about the exercise of religion at the moment of execution.

It is easy to get caught up in the horror of Castro’s killing and come to the conclusion that Ramirez, 37, should pay with his life.

After all, as the lead prosecutor at Ramirez’s trial has said, “Pablo Castro didn’t get to have somebody praying over him as this guy stabbed him 29 times.”

Two questions are paramount: Does Ramirez deserve to die for this crime? Do we deserve to do this to ourselves?

My answer to both questions is no. We shouldn’t do state-sponsored killings. It’s a repugnant and medieval act and cheapens the value of human life. It dehumanizes everybody.

I have been battling the death penalty since I walked onto Arkansas’ Death Row in 1969 as part of a documentary team interviewing men who faced death in the electric chair.

Remember, the death penalty is a process. It’s a process staffed from beginning to end by people. And people make mistakes.

Police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, jurors — all make mistakes. The process is far from perfect. But, when a life hangs in the balance, mistakes are devastating.

Look at the cases of Cameron Todd Willingham, Ruben Cantu and Carlos DeLuna. Each was executed by Texas and the evidence of their innocence is massive.

Nationwide there have been 185 exonerations of death row prisoners since 1973. Texas has had 16 exonerations in that time. These are men who were wrongly sentenced to death, with evidence of their innocence coming in time to stop their execution.

The national and international context for Texas’ use of the death penalty is startling.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1976 the U.S. has had more than 1,530 executions, with 573 occurring in Texas.

Since nations of the European Union don’t have the death penalty, that leaves the U.S. as the leader among Western industrial democracies in use of the death penalty. And, Texas’ 573 executions is tops in the U.S.

Some people will look at those numbers and feel it’s not enough. I disagree.

I am embarrassed and outraged by the practice of the death penalty in Texas. It is well past time for Texas to abolish it. Twenty-three of our 50 states have done away with it. And some states that have it don’t use it.

Perhaps there is an awakening across the U.S. about executions. In 1999, there were 98 executions in the U.S. Last year, only 17, with 10 of those being federal executions in the closing months of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Last year, Texas had three executions. This year, three as well. The death penalty has run its course. It’s time to let it go, Texas.

I am reminded of Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun who began his career as an ardent supporter of the death penalty. By the end of his career, Blackmun was a severe critic, famously declaring in one dissent, “From this day forward I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.”

Texas needs to do likewise.

And, the Express-News Editorial Board should give its strong public voice to those who say that the time for abolition of the death penalty has arrived. It’s time for the Editorial Board to speak up and speak out for abolition.

(source: Guest Commentary; Roger C. Barnes is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of the Incarnate Word----San Antonio Express-News)

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Attorneys Present Closing Arguments in Rodney Reed Innocence Hearing

A Bastrop, Texas trial court heard closing arguments October 18, 2021 on whether Texas death-row prisoner Rodney Reed should be granted a new trial in the April 1996 murder of Stacey Stites. The argument concluded the adversarial portion of an extraordinary evidentiary hearing ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) to review Reed’s claims that prosecutors secured his convictions for rape and murder by suppressing exculpatory evidence and presenting false testimony.

The TCCA stayed Reed’s execution on November 15, 2019, just five days before he was scheduled to be put to death in a racially charged case that observers had likened to a 21st century lynching. Reed, who is Black, alleged that he had been having a secret affair with Stites, who is white; that Stites was actually murdered by her abusive fiancé, Jimmy Fennell; and that Fennell, who at that time was a police officer in Giddings, Texas, had framed Reed for the murder. Beginning on July 19, Reed’s lawyers presented four days of new evidence to Bastrop County District Court Judge J.D. Langley supporting his innocence claim, followed by rebuttal evidence presented by Texas prosecutors.

Langley indicated that he expects to make a recommendation to the TCCA, which retained jurisdiction over the case, by the end of October. The TCCA will determine whether to grant Reed a new trial, set him free, or leave his conviction in place.

The Evidence at the Hearing

At the hearing, Reed presented new evidence that he and Stites were involved in a consensual affair, that prosecutors presented false forensic testimony concerning the time Stites was murdered and suggesting that Reed had raped her, that Fennell committed the murder, and that a forensically correct timeline showed that Stites had died at a time Fennell himself had said he was with her. Two of Stites’ coworkers at a Bastrop grocery store testified that she said she was “sleeping with a Black man named Rodney,” introduced him as “my very good friend, Rodney,” and acted “very flirty” and “[g]iggly and happy” around him. They also testified that they saw indications shortly before her death that Fennell was abusing Stites.

Other witnesses heard Fennell threaten to kill her if she cheated on him and say at her funeral service that “She got what she deserved.” Fennell was later convicted and spent 10 years in prison for a kidnapping and sexual assault he committed while on duty as a police officer. 2 men who were incarcerated with him testified that Fennell had confessed to the killing. One of the men, Arthur Snow, testified that Fennell had said, “You wouldn’t believe how easily a belt would break, strangling a ni***r-loving whore.” When Stites’ body was found, the belt that was used to strangle her was in two pieces. Reed’s lawyers also presented evidence that Fennell had failed 2 polygraph tests about the murder, had no alibi for when the murder actually occurred, and cleaned out his bank account the morning Stites died.

Reed’s lawyers attacked the prosecution’s case with forensic testimony from two doctors who testified that the state’s forensic witness, forensic expert Dr. Suzanna Dana, had presented false testimony about how long the rigor mortis process takes. Despite notes in her own textbook that contradicted her testimony, Dana understated the time frame, allowing prosecutors to set the time of death between 3-5 a.m. The state of Stites’ body at the time it was discovered, including the start of the decomposition process, the defense experts testified, indicated that Stites had actually died earlier, at a time Fennell said Stites had been with him.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Gregory Davis also rebutted testimony from Texas Department of Public Safety forensic examiner Karen Blakely, who falsely informed the jury that intact sperm can live no longer than 26 hours. Prosecutors had used Blakely’s testimony to persuade the jury that the presence of Reed’s sperm in Stites’ body showed that he had raped Stites before killing her. Reed contended that he had had consensual sex with Stites days before her death. Sperm can remain intact for up to a week, Davis testified.

In closing arguments, Jane Pucher, an attorney with the Innocence Project who is representing Reed, said, the new evidence supports Reed’s request for a new trial. “A new jury, hearing this evidence, would have a reasonable doubt in this case,” she said.

Prosecutors attempted to rebut Reed’s case by arguing that the witnesses’ memories were faulty as a result of the passage of time. They also presented Fennell’s family members to say that they could not believe he would ever harm Stites. Finally, they presented the testimony of a woman who said that Reed had sexually assaulted her earlier in 1996.

Family members of Stites and Reed attended the hearing. Stites’ sister, Debra Oliver, said afterward that she still believes Reed killed her sister. “I think the state did a great job of proving that there’s never been any evidence of a relationship between Rodney and Stacey,” she told the Austin American-Statesman. Reed’s brother, Rodrick Reed, however, said he felt “pretty good” about the hearing. “All we ask for is a fair trial,” he said. “My brother never had that from the beginning. It was a Jim Crow trial straight out the gate. And so, if this time we can get a fair trial, the evidence will free Rodney Reed.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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Hockley County considering high cost of death penalty cases----4 capital murder cases in Hockley county; D.A. Angela Overman says she would seek the death penalty in latest one

Hockley County currently has four capital murder cases on the docket, a high number for a rural area. That includes last month’s indictment of the accused Levelland shooter charged with killing a SWAT commander.

The District Attorney has already promised to pursue the death penalty in that case.

It’s unclear what punishment will be sought for the other 3, but the death penalty is still on the table.

But death penalty trials can be so costly, more than half the counties in Texas have not sent one person to death row, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP).

“These cases are just much more time consuming and resource-intensive in the criminal legal system,“ Kristin Houle Cuellar, the executive director, said. “Meter really starts running from the moment that a district attorney decides to seek the death penalty in a capital case.” Cuellar says capital punishment can cost two to three times more than alternative punishments, such as life in prison without the possibility for parole.

Do we purchase more ambulances or do we seek the death penalty? Those are some real choices that have been made at the local level.” — Kristin Houle Cuellar, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

It comes down to a number of factors, like a lengthy jury selection process, automatic appeals after convictions, required testing of all biological evidence (like DNA) and expert testimony, to name a few.

Sometimes, a court orders a change of venue, seeking an unbiased jury. That could end up costing even more, and all on the local jurisdiction’s dime.

In 2009, Gray County in the panhandle, roughly the same size as Hockley County, spent almost $1 million in its capital case against Levi King, which was moved to Lubbock County.

“In that case, the jury didn’t even impose a death penalty. So all of that money was spent on an outcome that they could have secured anyway, which is that Levi King would have spent the rest of his life in prison,” Cuellar said. Cuellar says in 2019, 1/2 of the cases in Texas where death row was an option, the jury instead chose to sentence the defendant to life without parole.

While there are some resources, like the state Attorney General’s office, the majority of the costs are on the county taxpayer.

In the King case, TCADP reports the cost of trial was a factor in the county withholding employee raises and increasing tax rates.

“It is the county budget that is impacted directly by the use of the death penalty. We’ve seen other examples in other counties, particularly our smaller, rural counties where they’ve had to make very difficult budgeting decisions. Do we purchase more ambulances or do we seek the death penalty? Those are some real choices that have been made at the local level.”

KCBD has reached out to the Hockley County judge, but have not heard back as of Thursday night.

The District Attorney had no comment.

(source: KCBD news)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Court won't revive death sentence for South Carolina inmate

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a plea from South Carolina to reimpose the death penalty on a South Carolina inmate whose death sentence stood for 2 decades until a federal appeals court threw it out in August.

Chief Justice John Roberts did not comment in denying the state's request to stop the clock on a lower court order in favor of inmate Sammie Lee Stokes. The order requires the state to conduct a new sentencing hearing for Stokes, if it wants jurors to again sentence him to death. Otherwise, Stokes will spend the rest of his life in prison.

He was sentenced to death in 1999 for the rape and murder of 21-year-old Connie Snipes in Orangeburg County.

Evidence at the trial showed he was paid $2,000 by the victim’s mother-in-law, who planned to take custody of her grandchildren once Snipes was dead.

Stokes' guilt is not at issue. Instead, a 3-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Stokes deserved a new sentencing hearing because 2 of his previous defense attorneys failed to present evidence of his traumatic past.

Stokes suffered physical and sexual abuse at a young age, his parents were “serious alcoholics” and Stokes and his sister would skip school to steal food from the neighbors in order to eat, Judge Roger Gregory wrote.

Both parents died in front of him before he turned 14, and Stokes began abusing alcohol and drugs, in addition to dropping out of school, Gregory wrote.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson urged the justices to step in, writing that the appeals court engaged in inappropriate second-guessing of lower-court decisions long after the crime and several rounds of court proceedings.

(source: Associated Press)

ALABAMA:

Gov. Ivey, AG Marshall issue statements following execution of Trussville’s Sharma Johnson’s murderer

Following the execution of the murderer of Sharma Johnson of Trussville, Gov. Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall released statements addressing the execution of Willie B. Smith.

Smith was put to death by lethal injection on Thursday night almost 30 years after kidnapping, robbing, and brutally murdering Johnson.

Ivey’s statement read; “Sharma Ruth Johnson was abducted at gunpoint, threatened while in the trunk of the car, terrorized, assaulted, and ultimately, Willie B. Smith, III brutally killed her. In that final moment of this young lady’s short life, Mr. Smith, after learning Ms. Johnson was related to a law enforcement officer, made the choice to put a shotgun to her head, stealing this woman’s future.

“Even after these heinous crimes were committed, Mr. Smith made the choice to burn the vehicle to hide his fingerprints. He knew full well he was doing wrong. This was an absolutely horrendous act against Ms. Johnson. It is also an attack on our men and women in blue.

“In dealing with this unimaginable and tragic loss, her loved ones have endured years of Mr. Smith attempting to avoid due punishment and then a delayed execution earlier this year. Mr. Smith had more time on death row than Ms. Johnson had in this life.

“The evidence in this case was overwhelming, and justice has been rightfully served. The carrying out of Mr. Smith’s sentence sends the message that the state of Alabama will not tolerate these murderous acts. I pray that the loved ones of Ms. Johnson can be closer to finding peace.”

Related Story: Trussville woman’s murderer executed

Marshall stated; “Justice has been served. Tonight, Willie Smith was put to death for the heinous crime he committed nearly three decades ago: the abduction and execution-style murder of an innocent young woman, Sharma Johnson.

“When a capital murderer is due to receive his just punishment, one always hears accusations of “cruel and unusual punishment,” with that term rarely used in a way that accords with its constitutional meaning—and absolutely never used in reference to the victim’s loved ones.

“The family of Sharma Johnson has had to wait 29 years, 11 months, and 25 days to see the sentence of Sharma’s murderer be carried out. Finally, the cruel and unusual punishment that has been inflicted upon them—a decadeslong denial of justice—has come to an end.

“I ask the people of Alabama to join me in praying for Sharma’s family and friends, that they might now be able to find peace and closure.”

(source: Trussville Tribune)

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Alabama Executes Willie Smith as Other States Retreat from Lethal Punishment

After leading the nation in Covid-19 deaths per capita last month, Alabama became just the 3rd state to carry out a death sentence this year when it executed Willie Smith by lethal injection yesterday.

For several years, the execution rate has fallen significantly. Willie Smith’s is just the 5th execution carried out by a state this year. So far, 2021 is on track to be the 7th consecutive year of fewer than 30 executions.

2020 also had the lowest number of state executions in 37 years. 5 states—Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri—carried out a total of 7 executions in 2020. Almost as many people (6) were exonerated from death row last year.

The death sentencing rate has also been in significant decline over the last several years. Only 4 new death sentences were imposed in the United States in the 1st half of 2021.

As the number of new death sentences and executions continues to decline, the number of states that have abolished the death penalty continues to rise. Colorado abolished capital punishment in 2020, and on March 24, 2021, Virginia became the 23rd state (and the 1st Southern state) to abolish the death penalty.

The federal government carried out an execution spree without parallel in the 20th or 21st centuries, killing 13 people between July 14, 2020, and January 16, 2021, after 17 years with no federal executions.

With the nation’s highest death sentencing rate, Alabama has the 4th highest number of people sentenced to death in the country—only the much more populous states of California, Florida, and Texas have larger death rows.

Alabama’s death row population is grossly inflated by sentencing practices that are outlawed in every other state.

Alabama is the only state—out of 27 death penalty states—where the standard sentencing procedure does not require that the jury return a unanimous verdict in support of death before a death sentence may be imposed.

Of the 168 people currently on Alabama’s death row, 80% would not have been sentenced to death in any other state because they did not receive unanimous jury verdicts for death.

There are 30 people currently on Alabama’s death row who actually received life verdicts from juries that were overruled by elected judges. While this practice has been outlawed by the legislature and questioned by many judges, courts have not applied the ban on override retroactively.

Alabama was the only state in the nation that authorized judges to override jury verdicts for life and impose the death penalty when it finally ended the practice in 2017. Those who were sentenced to death through judge override before the law changed still face execution today.

(source: eji.org)

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Madison County DA's Office explains long process in death penalty cases

The appeals process is one of the biggest expenses involved.

WAAY-31 is looking for answers to long delays in carrying out a death sentence in Alabama.

Willie Smith’s death by lethal injection Thursday night comes almost 30 years after he murdered a woman in Birmingham. The Madison County district attorney's office told us they understand people want to know answers.

A top prosector in the office told us the short answer is the appeals process, which helps ensure everyone gets treated fairly. It can cost taxpayers a lot of money to house death-row inmates, but the biggest expense involves the appeals aimed at making sure their sentence is just.

"The cost is high," said Tim Gann, chief deputy for the Madison County DA's office. "The time that it takes to prosecute one of these cases, the time it takes to get it through the system is a factor, and look, if we're going to seek the death penalty and ask the state to extinguish someone's life, all these appeals are somewhat necessary so that we can ensure that the defendant is treated fairly."

The DA's office said they're dealing with 30 capital murder cases at the moment. Gann said he understands, as a taxpayer, how irritating the process can be, but it has to stand to make it fair and keep safeguards in place for all parties involved.

(source: WAAY news)

MISSISSIPPI----impending execution

Mississippi Inmate David Cox Given November 17, 2021 Execution Date

David Neal Cox, Sr., is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm local time on Wednesday, November 17, 2021, at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi. 50-year-old David is convicted of murdering 40-year-old Kim Kirk Cox, on May 14, 2010, in Sherman, Mississippi. David has been on death row in Mississippi for the last 9 years.

After getting married, David and Kim Cox had 2 sons together. David also adopted a daughter Kim had before her marriage, LK, who was born in April 1998. In 2009, LK told Kim that David had raped her. Kim reported the rape to the police. In August 2009, David was arrested for rape, child abuse, sexual battery, and possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

David’s bail was initially set high, however after spending 9 months in jail, it was reduced, and David was released in April 2010. While in prison, cellmates testified that David often became angry at Kim, blaming her for being in prison. He also claimed he was going to kill her once he was released.

After his release, he began working as a commercial truck driver and purchased a gun and extra magazines. Kim, upon hearing David was released, moved in with her sister, terrified David would come after her. She also sought, and was granted, an order of protection.

On May 14, 2010, David borrowed a vehicle and drove to the home where Kim was staying, along with the children. Using the gun, David shot his way into the home, taking Kim and 2 of the children hostage. One of the children, along with Kim’s sister, was able to escape and call for help.

Kim had been shot twice. Hostage negotiators attempted to secure her release, along with the children. David talked with negotiators several times, stating he wanted to watch Kim die. While holding Kim and the children hostage, David sexually assaulted 12-year-old LK at least 3 times. He also repeatedly threatened to kill the children if police attempted to enter the home.

Kim and the children were taken hostage around 7:00 pm, and at 3:23 am, a SWAT unit entered the home safely rescued the children. Kim had already bled out and died. David was taken into custody.

David eventually pled guilty to murdering Kim, raping LK, and multiple other crimes. He did not make a plea bargain with prosecutors before pleading guilty and a jury sentenced him to death. David requested that his appeals be halted and an execution date scheduled.

Pray for peace and healing for LK and Kim’s family. Pray for strength for the family of David Cox. Please pray that if David is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented before his execution. Pray that David may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)

OHIO:

Death sentence overturned for inmate who killed elderly Hamilton man in 2003----Due to mental illness, Ketterer will now serve life in prison.

Donald J. Ketterer, who was sentenced to death for killing an elderly Hamilton man in 2003 is no longer on death row due to a new law prohibiting the execution of people who had severe mental illness at the time of their crime.

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

Last month, a Visiting Butler County Common Pleas Judge James Brogan granted Ketterer’s July 2021 motion for post-conviction relief regarding his sentence, citing the the new law, and resentenced Ketterer to life in prison with no possibility for parole for killing 85-year-old Lawrence Sanders.

Ketterer, now 72, is housed at Warren County Correctional Institution, plead guilty to aggravated murder and other charges and was sentenced to death by a 3-judge panel that heard aggravating and mitigating factors in a sentencing-phase hearing.

In a written confession to Hamilton detectives, Ketterer said Sanders was a longtime acquaintance who had invited him into his home on the day of the murder in February 2003.

Ketterer told police he hit Sanders in the head with an iron skillet, then repeatedly stabbed him with scissors and other kitchen utensils after Sanders was unable to loan Ketterer money for some pending court fines.

Ketterer then stole Sanders’ car, old coins and other possessions.

According to trial records, Ketterer, who had a long history of substance abuse and psychiatric problems, abandoned the car in Hamilton after crashing it into a garage, and traded some of the victim’s stolen possessions for crack cocaine.

In the decision, Brogan said “this court finds that (Donald) Ketterer suffered from bipolar disorder on Feb. 24, 2003, when Lawrence Sanders was murdered ... and because of his bipolar disorder, lacked substantial capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of law.”

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 legislation that took effect in April provides a one-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.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said it is his job to uphold the law and there is no appeal to the decision.

“While I was not the prosecutor in the Ketterer case at the time of his conviction, I am never the less responsible to the law as delivered by the justices by the Supreme Court of Ohio. I have and will follow the decision for which there is not appeal.”

(source: Journal-News)

MISSOURI:

Worried about government tyranny? Missouri executing Ernest Johnson should scare you

The Founding Fathers were rightly concerned with a government acting as God. That’s what Gov. Mike Parson did. The Founding Fathers were rightly concerned with a government acting as God. That’s what Gov. Mike Parson did.

Missouri has been in the national and international news for what many consider an unconstitutional and immoral execution. On Oct. 5, the state put Ernest Johnson to death after Gov. Mike Parson refused to grant him clemency, despite pushback from community clergy, a former Missouri governor and Pope Francis.

Missouri is not alone in the United States for its willingness to press forward with legally and morally questionable executions. In 2017, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson ordered the execution of seven men in 11 days, as the state’s stock of lethal injection drugs was set to expire. The American Bar Association responded to by urging the importance of the constitutional right to due process. In 2014, Oklahoma perpetrated the callous and botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who had to be injected multiple times with needles in his arms, neck and groin. He ultimately died from a heart attack, not the drugs.

The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.” We hold the view that the death penalty is unconstitutional, regardless of the crime perpetrated. Many people who call themselves “constitutional originalists,” embodied most prominently perhaps by late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, believe that originalism allows for — and perhaps demands — a death penalty, because most states at the time of constitutional ratification had a death penalty.

This is mistaken, for at least 2 reasons. First, Scalia tempered his originalism in some death penalty cases, such as juveniles being put to death, despite its widely accepted practice at the time of the Eighth Amendment’s writing. This led Craig S. Lerner of George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School to observe: “When America’s most famous originalist confronts the common law infancy defense in all its barbarity, he is apparently driven into the camp of ‘living constitutionalism.’”

Second, it overstates the sentiment toward government penalties in the early days of the republic, when constitutional contours were still being established. American criminal punishments were reduced between 1776 and 1789. That is, in the wake of throwing off the repressive shackles of monarchy, the original intent of the framers was to prevent excessive punishments by a government. For example, William Bradford, a close friend of James Madison and the second U.S. attorney general, argued that solitary imprisonment is worse than death itself, and should be preferred. Further, he stated, “the prevention of crimes is the sole end of punishment,” and “every punishment which is not absolutely necessary for that purpose is a cruel and tyrannical act.”

In 1821, Thomas Jefferson wrote in his autobiography that Cesare Beccaria, an Italian philosopher who fervently opposed capital punishment, “had satisfied the reasonable world of the unrightfulness and inefficacy of the punishment of crimes by death; and hard labor … had been suggested as a proper substitute.” This simply confirms that many early American leaders felt the same way — including no less than Madison and Benjamin Franklin.

Thus, originalists should consider the tendency toward moderating punishment as the intent of the Founding Fathers and the framing generation that followed. If anything, then, the move to limit and eventually perhaps end the death penalty in the United States is found within the spirit of the nascent Constitution. Ending the death penalty, then, aligns with the moderation of state penalties between the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has sometimes upheld this interpretation, as in Coker v. Georgia, which forbids the death penalty in the rape of an adult; Kennedy v. Louisiana, which forbids the death penalty in rape more generally; Ford v. Wainwright, which ends the practice of killing the criminally insane as “savage and inhumane;” and Atkins v. Virginia, which forbids state execution of person who is intellectually disabled. All these decisions are aligned with the original ideological intent of the framers, who knew that, as Jefferson remarked, that the death penalty was a “revolting principle.”

On Johnson’s execution, Parson said that the state was “prepared to deliver justice and carry out the lawful sentence.” Yet the Founding Fathers were quite aware the vengeance is not justice — it is revenge. An eye for an eye does not bring closure. It brings trauma. The Constitution was designed to prevent the tyranny of government acting as God. The continued reliance on the death penalty is not justified through originalism, nor is it justified morally. (source: Guest Commentary; Nathan James is a double major in Transnational Studies and Political Science at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. He co-authored this with Tobias T. Gibson, the Dr. John Langton Professor of Legal Studies and Political Science at Westminster College. These comments do not reflect the views of Westminster College.----Kansas City Star)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Oklahoma Gives Julius Jones New Execution Date of November 18, 2021

Julius Jones has requested that his execution be stayed. Earlier this year, Julius and several other inmates were dismissed from a lawsuit which challenged the state’s execution protocol. The men were removed from the lawsuit for failing “to propose an alternative method of carrying out their sentence of death.” After being removed from the lawsuit, Oklahoma Attorney General requested execution dates for the men. Since then, one inmate has been allowed to rejoin the lawsuit. Jones and the others are now seeking to do the same.

Julius JonesJulius Darius Jones is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm local time on Thursday, November 18, 2021, at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma. 41-year-old Julius is convicted of murdering Paul Howell on July 28, 1999, in Edmond, Oklahoma. Julius has been on death row in Oklahoma for 19 years. During high school, Julius was an honor student and a member of the National Honor Society. He was also the co-captain of the football, basketball, and track teams. After graduating with a 3.8 GPA, Julius received a “presidential leadership” scholarship to the University of Oklahoma. He was also an athlete while at college. Julius was later linked to a carjacking and jewelry store robbery.

On Wednesday, July 28, 1999, Paul Howell was shot in the driveway of his parents’ house in Edmond, Oklahoma. Paul, his 2 young daughters, and his sister, Megan Tobey, had just returned from a shopping trip. Megan was exiting the vehicle when she heard a gunshot. She turned and saw Paul slumped over in the driver’s seat. Megan described the shooter as a young black male, wearing a white T-shirt, with a stocking cap on his head and a bandanna over his face. The man demanded the keys to vehicle.

Megan helped the children out of the car, directing them towards the house. Megan and the girls entered the house, yelling for help. When Paul’s parents ran outside, they found Paul lying on the driveway. The car was also gone. Paul died several hours later from the gunshot to his head.

Police found the missing vehicle 2 days after the shooting. The owner of a local garage said a man, Ladell King, attempted to sell him the vehicle. King then told police that he had promised to help Christopher Jordan and Julius Jones find a buyer for the stolen vehicle. Further, King said that the night of the shooting, Jordan came to King’s apartment. Jones arrived at the apartment a short time later, driving the stolen vehicle. Jones was also wearing a white T-shirt, black stocking cap, and red bandana.

Police arrested Jordan on July 30, 1999. The following day, Jones was arrested During a search of Jones’ bedroom, police discovered the murder weapon wrapped in a red bandana.

In exchange for a plea deal, Jordan agreed to testify against Jones. Jordan testified that Jones was the shooter. Jones was convicted and sentenced to death. Jordan has since been released from prison.

Jones has always insisted he is innocent of Paul’s murder. In 2018, his innocence claims were highlighted on the ABC television documentary series, “The Last Defense.” Since the show, Jones has gained national attention and support. Most recently, celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Baker Mayfield, Trae Young, Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook, have voiced support for Jones.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board voted to commute Jones’ sentenced to life in prison. The decision to commute Jones’ sentence is ultimately up to Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt.

Pray for peace and healing for the family of Paul Howell. Pray for strength for the family of Julius Jones. Please pray that if Julius is innocent, lacks to the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented before his execution. Pray that Julius may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)

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Oklahoma’s Libertarian Party organizes protest to abolish the death penalty

A political party known for promoting personal liberty and limited government will rally against capital punishment on Saturday, October 23 at 1 p.m. out on the North Side of the Oklahoma State Capitol.

So far, dozens plan to attend the event “Protest Capital Punishment: Abolish the Death Penalty”, according to a Facebook event page.

Natalie Bruno is the Libertarian Party’s gubernatorial candidate for the 2022 elections. She’s not the only candidate to voice opposition to the death penalty. Democratic candidate and former state Sen. Connie Johnson has long been one of the most vocal opponents of the practice. Bruno will face Johnson (D), Stitt (R), as well as other challengers, including State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who recently switched from Republican to Democrat to run for governor.

In an interview with The Black Wall Street Times, Bruno detailed why she believes the death penalty should be abolished.

“Our criminal justice system is so flawed and so broken that we should not be giving the Department of Corrections, or anybody really in our state, the opportunity to say whether somebody should die or not,” Bruno said.

Oklahoma ready to execute

Currently, 7 death row detainees are scheduled for execution between October 2021 and March 2022. After plaintiffs were recently reinstated into a lawsuit challenging the state’s execution protocol, a court hearing will take place on Monday, October 25. It will determine whether to grant a motion to halt all executions until the lawsuit can be heard in a trial proceeding in February 2022.

Meanwhile, Attorney General John O’Connor has refused to halt the executions himself.

High-profile inmate Julius Jones, who has maintained his innocence for over 20 years in the 1999 murder of Edmond man Paul Howell, will participate in a final clemency hearing to decide his fate on Tuesday, October 26.

The hearing comes a month after the Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1 to recommend commutation of his sentence from death to life with the possibility of parole. The board cited severe reasonable doubt in their decision. Yet, Governor Stitt has chosen to wait until after the clemency hearing on Tuesday before deciding whether to grant Jones life and freedom or a state-sanctioned lynching.

Opposition to death penalty grows

Organizers of the anti-death penalty protest have cited several reasons Oklahomans should abandon the “inhumane” practice. One glaring issue that remains is Oklahoma’s legacy of botched execution several years ago, which resulted in the state going nearly seven years without any executions. The state has used the wrong drugs and failed to properly administer them, resulting in one inmate writhing in agony for 45 minutes before eventually dying of a heart attack.

Importantly, the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission recommended an extension of the state moratorium on the death penalty in a 2017 announcement.

“Due to the volume and seriousness of the flaws in Oklahoma’s capital punishment system, Commission members recommend that the moratorium on executions be extended until significant reforms are accomplished,” the panel’s report said.

Besides the fact that the Libertarian Party doesn’t believe the government should wield this kind of power, they also say it disproportionately impacts minorities and low-income people in the state. The facts show they’re right.

Stark disparities in who gets put to death

Black men are disproportionately represented among those scheduled for death in Oklahoma. Three out of the seven men scheduled for executions are Black. In other words, Black people make up less than 10 percent of the state population, but they make up 42 percent of the men scheduled to die on death row in the coming days, weeks and months.

The 1st man scheduled for death, a Black man named John Grant, suffered severe sexual and physical abuse in state-run juvenile facilities. The state wants to kill him on October 28. Julius Jones is the second man scheduled for death on November 18. Back in September, he became the first death row inmate in the state’s history to receive a recommendation for life with the possibility of parole.

For her part, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Natalie Bruno said she wasn’t always against the death penalty. Registering as an Independent at 18, she eventually became a Democrat for several years before switching to Libertarian a few years ago. She said her thoughts on the death penalty eventually changed after getting more involved in criminal justice reform.

“We absolutely shouldn’t be doing it,” Bruno told The Black Wall Street Times. She said the death penalty is costly, unconstitutional and doesn’t deter crime.

“All it is is an emotional decision. It’s an act of revenge. That’s all it is. Outside of that there is no logical reason” to continue the practice, she said.

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board members from left to right: Scot Williams, who recused himself from the commutation vote for Julius Jones on September 13, 2021. Kelly Doyle, who voted yes for commutation. Chairman Adam Luck, who voted yes. Larry Morris, who voted yes. Richard Smothermon, who voted no.

Mayoral candidate, friend of Julius Jones, to speak at anti-death penalty protest

Saturday’s event isn’t a partisan affair. While the Libertarian Party has organized it, community leaders from other organizations will also attend and speak.

Jimmy Lawson is a professor, activist and Democrat running for Oklahoma City Mayor. He’s also been best friends with death row detainee Julius Jones for decades. In an interview with The Black Wall Street Times, he said he wants to change peoples’ minds about the death penalty and advocate for marginalized communities in OKC.

“One of the main reasons I’ve always been against the death penalty is because it is a human-based system,” Lawson said. He wants it eliminated because of the ability of human error, which has resulted in 10 exonerations just in Oklahoma.

“My best friend, Julius Jones, I’ve been fighting for him for 22 years now. So, I have learned so much of how this system has so many flaws. It’s very inequitable. It’s corrupt at a high level. And there’s just a lot of room for error.”

“The system has been overpopulated” with people from the Black and Latino communities, Lawson said. He plans to speak on Saturday about the need to completely revamp the criminal justice system in OKC.

“I hope people walk away saying, ‘wow, I didn’t know. It is a flawed system. And because of that, we’ve gotta get rid of the death penalty.’” Lawson added.

Support for death penalty may be waning in Oklahoma

Meanwhile, the Eighth Amendment adds weight to the argument for abolishing the death penalty.

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted,” the U.S. Constitution reads.

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Natalie Bruno plans to latch on to the phrase “cruel and unusual”.

“I can’t think of a humane way to kill somebody,” she said. While support for the death penalty was confirmed when Oklahomans voted to secure it in the state constitution in 2016, Bruno said her experience analyzing data paints a mixed picture.

“When we look into haystack data, where we have actually asked people across the state of different political affiliations how they feel about the death penalty, we are pretty 50/50,” she said.

“Even with the Republican party, they’re split pretty 50/50 on whether they are for or against it.”

DA Prater’s actions cause some to lose trust in system

Moreover, cracks in the support for the death penalty appear to have widened after Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater’s refusal to accept the Pardon and Parole Board’s decisions. He’s sued the board and Governor Stitt, and has convened a grand jury to investigate the Board after they recommended commutation of Julius Jones’ death sentence in September.

“I’m completely against it,” Bruno said of DA Prater’s interference in the due process of administrative proceedings. Specifically, he’s twice asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to prevent Board members Adam Luck and Kelly Doyle from participating in Julius Jones’ clemency hearing. He argues their involvement in organizations that assist recently released prisoners presents a conflict of interest. Meanwhile, he’s said nothing about his own actions to intimidate and influence the vote of Board members.

Organizers of Wednesday’s press conference outside the Oklahoma Judicial Building say DA David Prater uses the law to alter and obstruct the course of legal proceedings that don’t go his way, particularly the clemency proceedings for death row inmate Julius Jones. Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. (Photo by Mike Creef / The Black Wall Street Times.)

“Gov. Stitt has appointed these people. And everyone has a right to be involved with whatever entities that they want to. I think the fact that they are involved in certain groups gives them a better understanding and viewpoint,” Bruno said, calling DA Prater’s actions “meddling.”

But Bruno worries that Governor Stitt may be more concerned with his voter base than doing the right thing. She said that when he ran for he pushed criminal justice reform so if he fails to grant clemency for jones “he’d be contradicting” his stances on criminal justice reform during his campaign for governor.

Still, Bruno, Lawson and the dozens slated to attend Saturday’s protest hope to change the hearts and minds of a state whose tough-on-crime approach has not resulted in lower crime rates.

“Now more than ever people realize how important personal liberty is,” Bruno added.

(source: theblackwallstreettimes.com)

ARIZONA:

Court upholds death sentence for Arizona man who burned ex-roommate to death

An appeals court Thursday rejected an Arizona death-row inmate’s argument that his sentence was unconstitutional because his crime, burning a former roommate to death, was committed in a brief window when the state was revising its death penalty law.

A 3-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also flatly rejected Leroy McGill’s claims that his conviction should be overturned because his attorney did not adequately represent him.

The court said the work by McGill’s attorney was “thorough and expansive” and that whatever shortcomings there were in the defense case were due to “the weakness of her case and not her ineffective assistance.”

Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith agreed with the majority that McGill’s conviction should be upheld, but said in a partial dissent that the sentence of death was unconstitutional.

“LeRoy McGill could not have been sentenced to death for murder when he committed his crimes because at that time there was no statute implementing the death penalty in Arizona,” Smith wrote.

But Circuit Judge Jay S. Bybee wrote in the majority opinion that McGill knew that the state could seek the death penalty for the murder.

“Arizona did not impose a penalty that was previously unavailable, nor did the state criminalize innocent conduct after the fact,” Bybee wrote. “The state ‘simply altered the method … employed in determining whether the death penalty was to be imposed.'”

Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment, but one public defender said his office was “disappointed with the 2-1 decision.”

“The crime Mr. McGill was convicted of committing occurred after the Arizona death penalty statute was declared unconstitutional … and before the state legislature fixed the statute,” said Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender in Arizona.

The case began on July 13, 2002 – halfway between a June 24 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned Arizona’s death penalty law and the Aug. 1 action by state lawmakers that fixed the law by giving jurors, not judges, the authority to impose the death penalty.

It was on July 13 that McGill confronted Charles Perez, a former roommate in a Sunnyslope duplex who accused McGill of stealing a shotgun from a duplex they were living in. McGill was kicked out of the duplex, but subsequently came back to teach Perez “a lesson, that nobody gets away with talking about” McGill and his girlfriend at the time, according to court documents.

McGill found Perez and his girlfriend, Nova Banta, on a couch in the duplex, where he doused them with gasoline and threw a lit match at them, causing 3rd-degree burns that covered 75% of their bodies. Perez died the following day but Banta survived, allowing her to identify McGill.

McGill was indicted in March 2003 on charges of murder, attempted murder, arson and endangerment. He was convicted on all charges in October 2004 and sentenced to death a month later, based in part on the fact that he was a previous felon and had committed the murder “in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner.”

In his most recent appeals, McGill argued that his attorney failed him by, among other things, not obtaining and retaining necessary expert witness and evidence, not spending sufficient time on the case, not digging into records that would show a troubled childhood and addictions, and more.

McGill said his attorney should have made a stronger case for mitigating circumstances that would have weighed against the imposition of the death penalty. Those included claims that he was sexually abused in a foster home, that he suffered brain injuries and that he began drinking alcohol at age 9, progressed to marijuana by age 13 and was a “chronic, daily methamphetamine” user by the time of the murder.

But a U.S. District Court judge rejected the ineffective assistance of counsel claim, noting that McGill’s attorney spent four days at his sentencing hearing presenting evidence of mitigating factors.

The circuit court on Thursday upheld that ruling, saying McGill’s attorney generally did her job. While she could have looked for more issues in his past, the court noted, attorneys are not required to “scour the globe on the off chance something will turn up.”

“McGill’s counsel presented extensive mitigation evidence and diligently attempted to discover much more,” Bybee wrote.

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Baich said his office is considering next steps in the case, but was disappointed that the court did not agree with Smith on the constitutionality of the death sentence in McGill’s case.

“Judge Smith agreed with our argument that the death sentence should be vacated because that penalty was not statutorily available at the time of the crime,” he said.

(source: Cronkite News)

PAKISTAN:

Retributive justice

The question of having the death penalty is again in the news and its existence is being questioned. Various arguments are being forwarded to abolish the death penalty.

In the past couple of decades a near-consensus regarding the undesirability of the death penalty has reached across the world. However, no figures or countries are quoted to back the claim. In the US, some states have lifetime sentences, and others have death sentences.

Hence, even in the US, there is no consensus on the suitability of the death penalty.

The futility of the death penalty is questioned through the argument that it does not reduce violence in society.

However, the real argument is that a person has been murdered by someone and what law should be there to deal with that someone. Recently, there has been a gruesome murder of a lady, and the accused is now trying to claim insanity.

There have been strident calls in social and print media, by women activists and ‘human-rights organisations’ of capital punishment for the accused. The role of judge and jury is now being played by society in this case.

However, is this not contrary to what is now being advocated by ‘human-rights organisations’, abolish the death-penalty?

Also, there is a hue and cry being made in our media on Pakistan having a high rate of execution, since the lifting of a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty in 2014.

But, to be fair, it should also be discussed as to why the moratorium was placed in the first place by those who matter.

It was unfortunate that our rulers, bowing to international pressure, stayed executions.

Justice delayed is justice denied. So these rulers are guilty of delaying the deliverance of justice to the aggrieved and acquiescing to the foreign influence against the Almighty’s command.

Generally, the voices from the other side of the camp need to be heard in an argument before lending support to an issue.

However, all the aforementioned arguments are probably forwarded by those who have never suffered the trauma of a near one being assassinated or murdered.

We have a habit of quoting international statistics, trends, opinions without discussing those analyses and numbers in our context.

However, there is validity in the argument that a lot needs to be done to improve the flaws in our legal system so that the weak and vulnerable with no access to legal counsel should be provided with legal assistance for a fair trial.

Similarly, there is a weakness in our judicial system which allows the rich and mighty to escape altogether or stretch the timeline of the judicial process so long that the affected party loses hope and exhausts resources to fight the case.

Hence, our legal system should be made cheap, swift, and transparent, and efforts should be directed towards reforming the system instead.

(source: Ahsan Munir, thenation.com.pk)

INDIA:

Project 39A At National Law University Delhi Releases 'Deathworthy: A Mental Health Perspective Of The Death Penalty'

see: https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/project-39-a-releases-deathworthy-a-mental-health-perspective-of-death-penalty-nlu-delhi-184137?infinitescroll=1

(source: livelaw.in)

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Rajasthan man sentenced to death on 30th day after raping, killing 7-year-old girl

see: https://www.onmanorama.com/news/india/2021/10/23/rajasthan-man-death-sentence-for-rape-murder-of-7-year-old.html

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Nagaur: Man gets death penalty for raping and murdering 7-year-old girl

A special POCSO court awarded capital punishment to a man for murdering a 7-year-old girl after raping her in Nagaur district of Rajasthan. The court termed the case as one of the ‘rarest of the rare’ crimes and awarded the death penalty. The trial was completed in 30 days.

The court of judge Rakha Rathore in Nagaur sentenced one Dinesh Jat to death on Thursday in the case of the rape and murder of 7-year-old girl. The court reserved the decision as the special public prosecutor sought capital publishment for the crime. The trial was held on a day-to-day basis for 11 days. The court convicted Dinesh relying on 29 prosecution witnesses.

The girl used to call Dinesh mama (maternal uncle). The incident took place in Pandukala police station area on September 20. Dinesh pretending to be under influence of intoxicants scared the girl on the pretext of dangerous dogs in the neighbourhood and offered to drop her home. He took her to a nearby agriculture farm where he offered her biscuits and snakes. He then raped her. Fearing identification, he murdered her and hid her body in the bushes.

Dinesh was arrested immediately after the crime based on the statements provided by eye-witnesses and other evidence and booked him under various sections of POCSO Act and IPC for kidnapping and murder. The chargesheet was filed in 6 days.

(source: The Pink City Post)

JAPAN----female to face death penalty

Death Penalty Sought for Ex-Nurse over Fatal Hospital Poisoning

Public prosecutors on Friday demanded the death penalty for a former nurse of a hospital in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, over serial poisoning murders at the facility in 2016.

"The acts were selfish and premeditated," the prosecutors said in their closing arguments the same day. "There is no scope for leniency."

In the 1st hearing of her lay-judge trial at Yokohama District Court earlier this month, Ayumi Kuboki, 34, pleaded guilty to killing 3 inpatients at former Oguchi Hospital in the capital of Kanagawa, near Tokyo, by injecting antiseptic into intravenous drip bags.

She claimed in court that she committed the acts in a way that inpatients would die while she was off duty. In the 1st hearing, the prosecutors said that Kuboki made such injections as she was concerned that if inpatients died when she was working, she would be blamed by bereaved families.

While admitting the allegations, Kuboki's defense team said the former nurse was in a state of diminished capacity as she was suffering from schizophrenia at the time.

(source: nippon.com)

SOUTH KOREA:

Does South Korea Have the Death Penalty? Why 'The Raincoat Killer' Case Sparked Debate

The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea is Netflix's latest true-crime documentary that you don't want to miss. The gripping 3-part series documents the crimes of Yoo Young-chul, who killed 20 people, many of whom were sex workers or elderly and wealthy.

The documentary features new footage and features exclusive interviews with investigators and families of the victims to help catalog the crimes that rocked South Korea in the 2000s.

On July 15, 2004, Yoo was arrested by Seoul police after several massage parlor employees and the police staged an impressive sting. He initially confessed to murdering 19 people between September 2003 and July 2004, but the true number of his victims was revealed to be 20. Yoo also admitted to committing acts of cannibalism.

On December 13, 2004, Yoo received the death penalty.

The last time the death penalty was carried out in South Korea was in 1997 and the sentence has sparked a debate over the death penalty in the country.

In South Korea, execution is a form of punishment for acts of rebellion, conspiracy with foreign countries, homicide, robbery-homicide and 12 other offenses.

Today, Yoo is still awaiting execution at the Seoul Detention Center, over a decade later.

At his trial, prosecutors requested that he receive the death penalty, which Yoo reportedly thanked them for.

The Korea JoongAng Daily reported that Yoo responded to the prosecution's request in court by stating: "I am thankful for the prosecutors' request for the death penalty. I will be repenting what I have done until I die."

Many people in South Korea welcomed the death penalty verdict, but before his arrest in July 2004, there was talk of capital punishment being abolished.

According to a report in The Chosunilbo, since Yoo's arrest, the support for the death penalty has been reignited after the nation learned of his crimes.

The Chosunilbo reported in November 2004 that a bill with 151 signatures to abolish capital punishment was presented to the National Assembly by Uri Party Rep Yoo In-tae.

The bill aimed to replace capital punishment with a life sentence without parole. The Uri Party had been working since July 2004 to put an end to the death penalty, but it faced a great challenge after public opinion changed in light of Yoo's crimes.

Today in South Korea, capital punishment is still permissible under the law, but it has not been in operation since 1997. The last executions took place in December 1997, with 23 people put to death, according to Amnesty International.

Despite the unofficial moratorium on executions, the criminal justice system in South Korea has continued to sentence criminals to death.

For example, in 2019, Ahn In-deuk was sentenced to death for committing mass arson and murder, in an attack that killed five people and injured 17 others, KBS World Radio reported.

Criminals on Death Row

As of 2020, a total of 60 criminals remain on death row in South Korea, according to The Korea Times.

Amnesty International has been a key campaigner in abolishing the death penalty in South Korea since the 1990s. In 2010, the South Korean Constitutional Court decided to uphold the death penalty in a five to four ruling.

The Constitutional Court stated capital punishment didn't violate "human dignity and worth," as protected in the country's constitution.

There is also growing support for the death penalty. A 2018 survey of 1,000 adults by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea found 79.7% of Korean citizens supported the death penalty, The Korea Herald reported.

However, the same survey also found 70% favored the option of alternative punishments to the death penalty.

(source: newsweek.com)

SOLOMON ISLANDS:

Gina calls for return of death sentence after brutal killing in Solomon Islands

Western Province Premier David Gina has called for reintroduction of capital punishment in Solomon Islands and has appealed to the country’s legal community to start preparing for this.

Gina made this statement following the brutal killing of a 7-year-old girl in Kolombangara, Western Province, last weekend.

In a statement, Gina said the incident should send a signal to every lawmaker that the current penalties to address such crimes were too lenient.

“It does not give true sentences which are often short, even for someone given a life sentence.

“Therefore, I am calling on all lawmakers to act now so a law be introduced in the country,” Gina said.

The premier joined leaders around the country in condemning the senseless, brutal killing of the primary school girl who went missing after returning home from school on Friday.

When her body was found on Monday, her two arms were reportedly missing with wounds to her shoulder and bruises to her thighs.

Gina said the only solution was for the country to reintroduce capital punishment for people carrying out such brutal crimes.

(source: asiapacificreport.nz)

CAMEROON:

Sham Trial for Kumba School Massacre

A military tribunal in Cameroon has sentenced 4 people to death, in a trial marked by procedural irregularities, for an attack on a school in Kumba, the South-West region, 1 year ago. The attack killed 7 children and injured at least 13 others. The 12 defendants, on trial before the Buea military court since December 2020, included the school owner, principal, and 4 teachers. The court found 4 guilty of terrorism, secession, hostility against the fatherland, murder, possession of illegal arms and ammunition, and insurrection. It sentenced 4 other defendants to 5 months in jail and a fine of 50,000 CFA (US $89) for allegedly failing to report receipt of a threat from separatist fighters. The court acquitted 4 others. In addition to the use of a military tribunal to try civilians, the trial was marred by serious procedural irregularities such as violating the rights of the accused to challenge the evidence against them and to present evidence in their own defense. 2 teachers were acquitted.

"Victims of the Kumba massacre have a right to expect an effective investigation, and for those responsible to be brought to justice in a fair trial," said Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Instead, Cameroonian authorities seem to have railroaded people into a sham trial before a military tribunal, with a predetermined outcome, capped with the imposition of the death penalty which is unlawful under international human rights law."

On October 24, 2020, gunmen stormed Mother Francisca Bilingual Academy, a private school in Kumba's Fiango neighborhood. No one claimed responsibility for the killings, but the government blamed armed separatists who have called for a boycott of education in the Anglophone regions since 2017.

Defense lawyers described to Human Rights Watch the multiple procedural irregularities at the trial, including the inherent lack of independence and fairness of the process that civilians face before a military tribunal. The defense was not allowed to cross examine witnesses; the proceedings were not translated from English or French into the pidgin English spoken by most of the defendants; the accused were arbitrarily detained; and the use of the death sentence is of concern.

"The entire trial was predicated upon circumstantial evidence as opposed to real evidence, and throughout the trial, the prosecution brought no witness we could ask questions," Atoh Walter Chemi, the leading defense counsel, told Human Rights Watch.

Defense lawyers said that the prosecution presented all its evidence in written statements without calling any witnesses to be questioned on their statements. Section 336 of Cameroon's criminal procedural code allows written testimony if a witness cannot appear in court. Such exceptions should be rare and limited to occasions in which it is not possible to produce the witness. Such evidence should also require corroboration. To base a conviction solely or predominantly on the untested hearsay testimony of absent witnesses violates fair trial standards.

Among the defendants were 4 teachers of the Mother Francisca Academy, the principal of the school, and the owner of the school and her husband. On the day of the attack, Chamberlin Ntou'ou Ndong, the government's senior divisional officer for the Meme division, an administrative area that includes Kumba, ordered the police to detain the owner of the school, her husband and two teachers at the Kumba police station to "ensure their safety," citing potential risks of reprisals by the community. But victims' family members and Kumba residents told Human Rights Watch that it was unlikely that anyone would want to harm them. "These teachers should have been brought into the trial as witnesses, not as accused persons," said Ikose Daniel Etongwe, a defense lawyer.

4 days after the massacre, Cameroon's communications minister said that security forces had killed a separatist fighter who was allegedly among those responsible. In February, local media reported that the army spokesperson had announced that elements of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (Battallion d'intervention rapide, BIR), an elite army unit, killed another separatist fighter known as "Above the law," who was also allegedly involved in the Kumba school killings.

Defense lawyers said the prosecution didn't inform them about these killing, nor was this evidence mentioned in the preliminary investigations. During the trial no reference was made to these military operations, no connection was established between the alleged fighters killed and the defendants, and the defense did not have an opportunity to raise any questions about those killed. Defense lawyers said that one of the four people sentenced to death admitted that he was a former separatist fighter.

Defense lawyers also said that the 12 accused were initially held without charge for more than 30 days at the police station and the gendarmerie brigade in Buea which violates both international law and the Cameroonian criminal procedure code.

On September 14, defense lawyers notified the court of their intention to appeal but were required to pay 200,000 CFA (USD 352), the amount of the fines also levied by the military court on the 4 defendants, before their appeal would be accepted. On October 4, the secretary of the Buea military court informed the defense lawyers about the conditions of appeal, which include an additional payment of 420,000 CFA (USD 739), a clear barrier to appeal in a death penalty procedure.

The trial, which received no media attention before the verdict was pronounced on September 7, started in December 2020. Defense lawyers said all 12 defendants had to present their cases in one day during a "marathon hearing" in July 2021.

The use of military courts to try civilians violates international law. Military court proceedings typically do not protect basic due process rights or satisfy requirements for independence and impartiality, Human Rights Watch said. Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have previously documented military trial proceedings in Cameroon marred by serious substantive and procedural defects in which the presumption of innocence, the right to an adequate defense, and the independence of proceedings are all seriously undermined.

Courts in Cameroon continue to impose the death penalty, although the country's last reported execution was in 1997. Cameroon has not ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty. The African Commission on Human and People's Rights has long called on African governments to abolish the death penalty and has adopted a resolution on its abolition. The UN Human Rights Committee in its general comment on the right to life, reiterated that where the death penalty has not been abolished, it can only be imposed in the most limited of circumstances for the most serious cases and when fair trial standards have been observed to the highest standards, so that the person's criminal responsibility is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The committee has noted that trials in which the accused has been unable to question relevant witnesses or where there is lack of an effective right of appeal, among other violations, are not fair trials and make any imposition of the death sentence arbitrary and a violation. The committee also emphasized that imposition of the death penalty by a military court on civilians violates the right to life. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime.

"The military court should never have handled this case involving civilians, and it seems to have made little effort to ensure basic respect for human rights standards," Allegrozzi said. "If the authorities intend to deliver justice for this heinous crime against children, they need to bring a credible case before civilian courts and hold those responsible to account according to international fair trial standards."

(source: allafrica.com)

SYRIA:

EU calls on Syria to abolish death penalty

The European Union on Saturday condemned the practice of death penalty in Syria and called on Damascus to abolish the punishment.

"The European Union condemns the recent execution of 24 people sentenced on charges of terrorism for starting wildfires in coastal regions of Syria in September and October 2020," the statement read.

The EU also expressed concern that minors received verdicts of 10 to 12 years imprisonment on the same charges.

The bloc stressed that it strongly opposes the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances as it is a "cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment" and pledged to continue the efforts to achieve its universal abolition. The EU further urged Syria to join the "worldwide trend to abolish the capital punishment."

In fall 2020, Syria was hit by massive forest fires in the provinces of Latakia, Tartus, Homs and Hama. Those responsible were identified by the Syrian law enforcement agencies later in the year. The Syrian Interior Ministry reported that the number of fires at the time reached 187, they affected around 280 villages and settlements, 3 people died.

(source: aninews.in)

IRAN:

see: https://www.iranhr.net/en/

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Grieving mother died of hard attack after son’s execution

The grieving mother of the Mohammadi brothers suffered a heart attack after hearing about the simultaneous execution of both of her sons in Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz. The mother died after being transferred to medical centers.

On Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 2 brothers from Ramhormoz, Ali Mohammad Mohammadi, 45, and Islam Mohammadi, 38, were executed in Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province. Prosecutor Ramhormoz was directly responsible for the execution of the 2 brothers.

Who is responsible for the heart attack of the grieving mother of the Mohammadi brothers?

After the assassination of Clergyman Raisi, the number of executions has increased exponentially.

In just one week, from October 11 to October 18, 2021, more than 16 prisoners were executed in Iranian prisons. True statistics are not available because of the ruling regime’s secrecy in carrying out executions. The number of executions is much higher than is known, and is largely unreported by state media.

In addition to implementing the death penalty to intimidate and repress dissidents, the regime puts the greatest pressure on prisoners’ families, especially their mothers. Many families of Iranian resistance martyrs who lost their children in the 60s and the 1988 massacre do not even know where their children are buried. Meanwhile, many of these parents have suffered strokes and lost their lives after hearing the news of their children’s execution.

(source> women.ncr-iran.org)

FRANCE:

Calls to bring back guillotine ‘defy French law’----A populist suggestion to reinstate the death penalty in France is constitutionally impossible, says Amnesty International’s Anne Denis

It is legally impossible to bring back the death penalty in France despite a majority of people (according to a 2020 poll) and a potential presidential candidate being in favour of capital punishment, says a leading Amnesty International campaigner.

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty (September 18), far-right polemicist Eric Zemmour said he was “philosophically... in favour” of executions during an interview on French TV.

The writer, who has not officially declared a candidacy for the 2022 presidential race but is estimated to have around 10% of vote ‘intentions’ if he does, went on to claim “a majority of French people are in favour of the death penalty, even today”.

However, Anne Denis, head of the Death Penalty, Torture and Health Commission for Amnesty International France, was quick to pour cold water on the idea, saying it would be unconstitutional. “It is legally impossible to reinstate the death penalty. In 2007, the abolition of capital punishment was written into the French Constitution, so if you bring it back, you will, in fact, have to make a Sixth Republic with a new constitution.

'Legally impossible to reinstate the death penalty'

“France also signed a second protocol for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that same year for the abolition of the death penalty. This really is the most important protocol and, within it, it says there is no turning back.

“It is legally impossible to reinstate the death penalty. If we did, we would have no standing in the international community. Zemmour knows this. He is just saying it to gain votes.

“There is no sense in what he says but the public does not know this. They have no idea of the complex international treaties. It is easy for the right wing to use this argument to win votes but it is impossible, thankfully.”

The death penalty - which was by guillotine - was abolished in France in 1981 during the early stages of Socialist François Mitterrand’s presidency.

The last person to be guillotined here (and, indeed, in the world) was Hamida Djandoubi on September 10, 1977 in a Marseille prison. An agricultural worker who had lost a leg in a workplace accident, he was accused of the torture and murder of his girlfriend who refused his orders to prostitute herself to other men.

At the time, more than 60% of the population was in favour of capital punishment. Despite this Mitterrand’s justice minister Robert Badinter succeeded in pushing the bill through to abolish executions on September 18, 1981, with 363 in favour and 117 against. The former lawyer, now aged 93, gave an historic, 2-hour speech to members of parliament, in which he argued that only totalitarian regimes had the death penalty.

“In countries of liberty, abolition is almost always the rule; in countries where dictatorship reigns, the death penalty is always practised,” he told lawmakers at the time.

When the law came into force, France became the 29th country in the world to renounce the death penalty. In 2021, 144 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Nevertheless, 55% of French people would be in favour of restoring it, a poll by Ipsos/Sopra Steria for the left-wing think-tank Fondation Jean-Jaurès, Montaigne Institute and Le Monde revealed last year.

'Public opinion is fickle'

Ms Denis insists readers should not take surveys like this too seriously.

L “Polls depend on how and when the question is asked. Public opinion is fickle. If asked in the aftermath of a particularly heinous crime or in a context of great violence, the answer will be in favour of the death penalty.

“This is human, but it is a matter of revenge, and the role of a state is not to orchestrate revenge but to dispense justice,” she said.

Amnesty International’s latest report on the death penalty recorded 483 executions in 18 countries in 2020, the lowest number of executions it has recorded in the past decade.

Most known executions took place in China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia – in that order.

China remains the world’s leading executioner, but the true extent of the use of the death penalty there is unknown as the data is classified as a state secret.

(source: connexionfrance.com)

OCTOBER 22, 2021:

TEXAS----new execution date

Kosoul Chanthakoummane has been given an execution date for August 17, 2022; it should be considered serious. His impending date set for Nov. 10 of this year has been cancelled.

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Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----55

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----573

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name-------Tx.

56----Nov. 17-----Ramiro Gonzalez----------574

57----Mar.8-------Michael Gonzales---------575

58----Aug. 17-----Kosoul Chanthakammane----576

(sources TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

How will SC carry out the death penalty? Execution details must remain in public view

South Carolina currently has 35 souls listed on its “Death Row Roster,” a single-page document that lists inmates facing the death penalty.

Their names are public information, as they should be, because they have been prosecuted by the state in the name of its citizens.

We have every right to know what steps are taken on our behalf and that includes, should the day come, the manner in which each of these 35 people is put to death.

Support for the death penalty in murder cases remains high according to the Pew Research Center, and it remains the law of the land in South Carolina. As long as that holds true, the state has a duty and obligation to be open and honest about the process.

That’s why a push by Bryan Stirling, director of the state’s Department of Corrections, to see the State Legislature pass a law that would allow the drug companies that sell the ingredients for the lethal injection to remain anonymous is shameful and an insult to every South Carolinian.

It is also in direct conflict with the state General Assembly’s own stance embedded in the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act.

The act states, in part, “The General Assembly finds that it is vital in a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner so that citizens shall be advised of the performance of public officials and of the decisions that are reached in public activity and in the formulation of public policy.”

Read that again. The General Assembly finds that it is vital in a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner.

Stirling and State Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, would do well to memorize that passage.

Hembreee, who has already agreed to prefile a bill creating this shield law for drug companies told our reporter Emily Bohatch, “If we’re going to have the death penalty, having all the alternatives available, in something that is arguably inhumane, its the most humane way to approach it.”

Hembree was the sponsor of an execution bill that passed earlier this year making the electric chair the default method of execution. The electric chair is also the only means of execution currently permitted in the state, though work is under way to institute firing squads as another form of execution.

In the meantime, Stirling says the shield law is needed because the state can’t purchase the drugs necessary to carry out lethal injections because drug manufacturers don’t want it known that they are linked to executions.

Imagine having the audacity to suggest that a private company’s fear that its brand might be tarnished outweighs the public’s right to know.

Yes, other states, including neighboring Georgia, have shield laws, but that doesn’t mean South Carolina should follow suit.

Instead, our State Legislature should use this opportunity to demonstrate to others that private interests don’t trump the public good in the state of South Carolina.

(source: Editorial Board, The State)

FLORIDA:

'Why insist on the death penalty' for Nikolas Cruz, Archbishop Thomas Wenski writes----Archbishop of Miami advocates for life sentence to end 'cycle of violence'

Although plenty of family members of Nikolas Cruz's victims seem to favor the death penalty for the Parkland school shooter, a recent column to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Miami urges them to reconsider.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski on Friday wrote a column for Florida Catholic magazine condemning the death penalty as Cruz's punishment.

His message was published in advance of Wednesday's hearing in which Cruz pleaded guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder for the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Wenski's message to Catholics was clear: "Why insist on the death penalty?"

"Standing with the families of murder victims does not compel us as a society to seek another death in return," Wenski wrote. "Their pain cannot be wiped away and the loss of life of their loved ones cannot be restored by another death."

Wenski went on to write that Cruz "is no longer a threat to society at large."

"A sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole is a severe and just punishment that also allows for continued reflection on the grave harms he caused," Wenski wrote. "Perhaps the state sees Mr. Cruz's execution as just retribution and fitting revenge. Maybe so, but does not this only serve to further the cycle of violence which continues to harden the hearts and minds of even our youngest members?"

By pleading guilty, Cruz must now wait for a jury of 12 to unanimously decide whether he should die for his crimes or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Nikolas Cruz reads a statement in a Broward County courtroom expressing remorse in the 2018 fatal shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Many family members of the murdered victims attended Cruz's hearing and said afterward that they want their loved one's killer to be executed.

Wenski, who noted that he presided at the funerals of 2 of the victims, said the act of murder "is a heinous crime "cries to God for justice."

"There is no question that Mr. Cruz's actions were heinous," Wenski wrote. "The victims are forever gone to us. Their families and all those who fearfully witnessed this abhorrent act of bloodshed will forever be scarred by it. … Their loss is incomprehensible. They want justice -- and justice can be served by accepting a guilty plea with life imprisonment."

Wenski concluded that a life behind bars "would serve the common good of all by helping break our society's spiral of violence, for an 'eye for an eye' mentality will just end up making us all blind."

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5 things to know about death penalty in Florida----Evolution of Florida death penalty: From hangings to electrocutions to lethal injection

Florida's Long History of Capital Punishment

Florida has a long history of capital punishment dating back to the 1800s.

The 1st known execution in Florida was in 1827, when Benjamin Donica was hanged for murder.

Back in those days, public hangings were overseen and performed by sheriffs of the counties where the crimes occurred.

But this changed in 1923, when the Florida Legislature abolished public hangings and instead authorized the use of the electric chair as a more humane method of execution.

Frank Johnson was the 1st person to be executed by electrocution in Florida on Oct. 7, 1924.

Electrocution was the lone method of execution in the Sunshine State until 2000, when the controversial death of Allen Lee Davis prompted the state to make the switch to execution by lethal injection.

Death Row

There are currently 305 prisoners waiting on death row in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Of that number, just 3 are women. White inmates on death row outnumber Black inmates by 69. That is, there are 182 white death row inmates compared to 113 who are Black. The 10 others on death row are Hispanic or designated "other" by the Florida Department of Corrections.

There were no executions in the United States between 1967 and 1977.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty in 1976, the state of Florida has executed 99 murderers -- 44 by electrocution and 55 by lethal injection.

John Arthur Spenkelink was the 1st to be put to death in Florida in the modern era. He was electrocuted May 25, 1979.

'Old Sparky'

Flames were seen shooting out of the heads of Tafero and Medina during their executions. It was later determined that the saline-soaked sponge stuffed between the inmate's head and the electrode to deliver the 2,300-volt spark was replaced with a synthetic sponge that caught fire during the May 4, 1990, execution of Tafero, while the sponge used during Medina's March 25, 1997, execution apparently wasn't properly soaked in saline, causing it to ignite.

The incidents led to a famous quote from former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

"People who wish to commit murder, they better not do it in the state of Florida, because we may have a problem with our electric chair," Butterworth said in 1997.

A new "Old Sparky" was constructed before Davis' July 8, 1999, execution. The new-and-improved "Old Sparky" had an adjustable headrest and a higher seat position to accommodate larger prisoners like Davis, who weighed 344 pounds. But the electrical components remained the same.

Believe it or not, while lethal injection is the primary method of execution in Florida, it is not the sole method. Death row inmates may still opt for the electric chair. This happened as recently as 2015, when Wayne Doty asked the state to electrocute him instead. Doty, who remains on death row, is the first and only prisoner to choose "Old Sparky" since electrocution became optional. Florida's most notorious death row inmate to meet his demise sitting on "Old Sparky" was serial killer Ted Bundy in 1989 -- 10 years after he was sentenced to die for murdering two Chi Omega students at Florida State University.

Toxic Cocktail

Florida's lethal injection cocktail is comprised of a triple-drug formula.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, the protocol requires the use of etomidate to sedate prisoners before injecting a paralytic and then potassium chloride, which stops a prisoner's heart.

In 2017, the Florida Department of Corrections revised its lethal injection protocol, substituting the sedative midazolam in favor of etomidate, which had never before been used for executions.

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch noted in May that he had reviewed the state's lethal injection procedures and found them to be "compatible with evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society, the concepts of the dignity of man, and advances in science, research, pharmacology and technology."

The most infamous Florida prisoner to die by lethal injection was serial killer Danny Rolling, who was executed in 2006 for the 1990 murders of 4 University of Florida students and one Santa Fe College student in Gainesville.

Marked for Death

It is up to the governor of Florida to sign the death warrant that ultimately seals the fate of Florida's next in line to be executed.

The sentence shall not be executed until the governor's warrant has been transmitted to the warden, indicating a designated date and time of death.

In 2013, then-Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill intended to expedite capital punishment.

The law created tighter time frames for a person sentenced to death to make appeals and post-conviction motions and imposes reporting requirements on the progress.

3 years later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of Florida's death penalty law, saying it was not sufficient for a judge to determine the aggravating factors to be used in considering a death sentence. The high court ruled that Florida's law violated the Sixth Amendment.

The Florida Legislature amended the statute to comply with the decision in March 2014 and, in doing so, changed the sentencing method, requiring a supermajority to issue a death sentence. If fewer than 10 jurors voted in favor of death, life imprisonment was imposed.

Previously, a judge decided the sentence and the jury only provided its non-binding opinion.

This new law was challenged and, in October 2014, the Florida Supreme Court struck it down by a 5-2 vote, finding that death sentences can only be handed down by a unanimous jury.

In March 2017, the state Legislature passed a new statute complying with the Florida Supreme Court ruling. It also provided that, in the case of a hung jury, a life sentence must be issued.

The governor has the right to commute the death penalty. Gov. Bob Graham granted 6 clemencies during his time in office. No other Florida governor since 1976 has granted clemency to a death row inmate.

(source for both: WPTV news)

ALABAMA----execution

Alabama death row inmate is executed nearly 30 years after murder conviction

Alabama death row inmate Willie B. Smith III was executed Thursday night, the state attorney general's office announced, after the US Supreme Court declined to hear an 11th-hour appeal.

Smith was executed by legal injection at 9:47 p.m. local time in Atmore, Alabama, according to the attorney general's office.

Smith was convicted of robbing 22-year-old Sharma Ruth Johnson, forcing her into the trunk of her own stolen car and fatally shooting her in 1991. Investigators say Smith then set the car on fire with Johnson's body inside.

"The family of Sharma Johnson has had to wait 29 years, 11 months, and 25 days to see the sentence of Sharma's murderer be carried out," state Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement. "Finally, the cruel and unusual punishment that has been inflicted upon them -- a decades long denial of justice -- has come to an end."

In February, the Supreme Court blocked his execution on the grounds that Smith wanted his spiritual adviser present in the execution chamber. The state of Alabama had asked the justices to allow the execution without his adviser in the chamber.

A state law went into effect in 2018 that allowed for death row inmates to elect death by nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injection, the default method of execution. Court records show that Smith received the form to choose, but didn't make the election during a 30-day opt-in period.

Because Smith suffers from "significant cognitive deficiencies," his motion for preliminary injunction alleged he was unable to "enjoy the benefit of the statute and the election form" without being aided with comprehension of the form and its contents. According to the ruling, Smith's attorneys asserted that he was unable to fill out the form because he has an IQ between 64 and 72.

Chief US District Judge Emily Marks ruled, "Because Smith has not shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) claim, and because the equities weigh against him, Smith has not met his burden of establishing his right to a preliminary injunction."

Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement following the execution, "The evidence in this case was overwhelming, and justice has been rightfully served. The carrying out of Mr. Smith's sentence sends the message that the state of Alabama will not tolerate these murderous acts. I pray that the loved ones of Ms. Johnson can be closer to finding peace."

(source: CNN)

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Impact of the death penalty in Alabama

In Alabama, defense lawyers who often represent the victims of violent crimes find themselves frequently explaining the difference to families between a capital murder case that is death-eligible and one that is not.

To make a case death-eligible it must be murder along with a dangerous, inherent felony, like robbery, rape, burglary or kidnapping.

“We base charging decisions and capital decisions just based on the law and the facts.”

For Jefferson County DA Danny Carr, it’s never easy when the death penalty is involved in a case.

“They’re always difficult decisions and none of them are the same,” Carr said. “You just have to go in it with an open mind, an open heart and lay everything out on the table to educate and allow them to make that educated decision.”

Carr said a lot of times he finds himself helping families understand when the death penalty is an option or it’s life without parole.

“It has to be a dangerous murder along with a dangerous inherent felony,” Carr said.

In the case of Willie B. Smith, Sharma Ruth Johnson, 22, was kidnapped and shot to death with her body found in her burning car.

“The crime that was committed against Ms. Johnson was a horrendous crime, but to be opposed to the death penalty is not to be calloused toward victims and it’s not to be dismissive toward crime,” defense lawyer Donald Clark, Jr. said.

Clark recently published a book on how he helped reverse the death sentence for Tommy Hamilton—an Alabama man convicted of capital murder during a robbery after finding perjured testimony from law enforcement.

“To deny someone that’s factually guilty of criminal conduct the constitutional safeguards that we cherish is what I believe putting everyone’s liberties at risk,” Clark said.

On either side, emotions constantly run high whether the convicted person is on death row or life without parole.

“We’re going to continue to do what we’re supposed to do, do it in the right manner and just follow the law and let the law dictate and the facts dictate what happens next,” Carr said.

Both attorneys said they do see the death penalty eventually going away in the U.S., especially as President Biden ran on a platform to abolish it.

Clark is calling on the state to be sure capital defendants get qualified and experienced defense – something he thinks fell short in both Hamilton’s and Smith’s case.

(source: WIAT news)

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USA----impending/scheduled executions

With the execution of Willie B. Smith III in Alabama on Oct. 21, the USA has now executed 1,537 condemned individuals since the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 1976 in the US Supreme Court Gregg v Georgia decision.

Gary Gilmore was the 1st person executed, in Utah, on January 17, 1977. Below is a list of further scheduled executions as the nation continues its shameful practice of state-sponsored killings.

NOTE: The list is likely to change over the coming months as new execution dates are added and possible stays of execution occur.

1538----Oct. 28-------John Grant---------Oklahoma

1539----Nov. 17-------Ramiro Gonzalez----Texas

1540----Nov. 18-------Julius Jones-------Oklahoma

1541----Dec. 9--------Bigler Stouffer----Oklahoma

1542----Jan. 6--------Wade Greely Lay----Oklahoma

1543----Jan. 27-------Donald Grant-------Oklahoma

1544----Feb. 17-------Gilbert Postelle---Oklahoma

1545----Mar. 10-------James Coddington---Oklahoma

(source: Rick Halperin)

MISSISSIPPI----new and impending execution date

Mississippi sets date for state’s 1st execution since 2012

The Mississippi Supreme on Thursday set a Nov. 17 execution date for an inmate who withdrew his appeals and once filed court papers calling himself “worthy of death.”

Mississippi has not had an execution since 2012, and it had 6 that year.

David Neal Cox pleaded guilty in 2012 to killing his wife, Kim, in May 2010 in the northern Mississippi town of Shannon. According to court papers, Cox shot his wife twice and then sexually assaulted his stepdaughter in front of a dying Kim Cox while police negotiators and relatives pleaded for her life. David Cox pleaded guilty to sexual battery, kidnapping and other crimes without making a bargain with prosecutors that precluded the death penalty. A jury sentenced him to death.

Union County Circuit Court Judge Kent Smith ruled in April that Cox, 50, was mentally competent to waive his appeals. The Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel appealed Smith’s ruling. Justices on Thursday affirmed Smith’s decision and denied the appeal by the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel.

Court records show Cox sent a handwritten letter to the district attorney in July 2018 saying “if I had my perfect way & will about it I’d ever so gladly dig my dead sarkastic wife up whom I very happilly and premeditatedly slaughtered on 5-21-2010 & with eager pleasure kill” her again.

Cox wrote to the chief justice of Mississippi Supreme Court in August 2018 saying he wanted to fire his lawyers, relinquish all appeals and have the state Supreme Court set his execution date.

In the ruling Thursday, justices wrote that in November 2018, Cox filed court papers saying “I am worthy of death” and asking to be executed.

Justices ordered the circuit judge to hold a competency hearing. Attorneys representing Cox argued he was mentally ill and not competent to waive his appeals. They also argued it would be unconstitutional for the state to execute him.

In 2006, the Mississippi Supreme Court allowed another death row inmate, Bobby Glen Wilcher, to end his appeals. He was executed in October of that year. Wilcher had been convicted in the 1982 stabbing deaths of 2 women.

Mississippi and several other states have had trouble finding drugs for lethal injections in recent years since pharmaceutical companies in the United States and Europe began blocking the use of their drugs for executions.

Attorneys for the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center sued the Mississippi prison system in April 2015 on behalf of 2 death row inmates, saying the state’s lethal injection protocol is inhumane. Papers filed in that lawsuit in July showed that the Mississippi Department of Corrections has been making efforts to acquire lethal injection drugs.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO----female may face death penalty

Death penalty looms over Mercer murder case

An Indiana woman charged with killing and dismembering 22-year-old Ryan Zimmerman appeared briefly Thursday in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.

Sarah Buzzard, 30, of Marion, Indiana, is charged with 18 felony counts in connection with the death of Zimmerman, whose skeletal remains — minus a skull and arms — were found near Grand Lake St. Marys State Park on Jan. 3, 2016.

The 2 most serious charges against Buzzard — aggravated murder — carry death penalty implications.

Thursday's court appearance was Buzzard's 1st since Sept. 27, when she pleaded not guilty to all charges against her during an arraignment hearing and also waived her constitutional speedy trial rights.

Buzzard was indicted by a grand jury in September on charges that include 2 counts of aggravated murder and 2 counts of murder, each unclassified felonies; 3 counts of kidnapping, felonies of the 1st degree; a 2nd-degree felony count of felonious assault; a 3rd-degree felony charge of abduction; 5 counts of tampering with evidence, felonies of the 3rd degree; grand theft of a motor vehicle, a 4th-degree felony; possessing criminal tools, a 4th-degree felony; and 2 counts of abuse of a corpse, felonies of the 5th degree.

Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey held a press conference in August to announce that the lengthy investigation into Zimmerman's death had been resolved.

Grey said search warrants were served on electronic media companies to learn about social networks on which Zimmerman communicated. Suspects were developed and were found to live in Marion. Another suspect was believed to live in Oak Island, North Carolina.

"The investigation led us to the location where Ryan was murdered and dismembered. A search warrant was executed at that location in Columbus and ... critical evidence was located to be examined at the BCI lab. The search warrant remains under seal so no more information will be released at this time," Grey said at that time.

On Aug. 25, Mercer County detectives were in Columbus, Ohio, Marion, Indiana and Oak Island, N.C. — assisted by local police agencies and officers from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation — and conducted simultaneous interviews with witnesses and suspects. Detectives had an arrest warrant for Sarah Buzzard, who was residing in Marion and was taken into custody.

It was then determined that Buzzard's wife, Naira (Jenna) Whitaker, 33, had participated in the crime. As Mercer County detectives were seeking an arrest warrant, police and BCI agents attempted to arrest Whitaker at her residence in Marion, Indiana.

When told she was going to be arrested, Whitaker pulled a handgun from her purse and died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Grey said Buzzard admitted to strangling Zimmerman and dismembering his body.

Judge Jeffrey Ingraham scheduled the next pre-trial hearing for Nov. 22.

(source: The Lima News)

TENNESSEE:

Pervis Payne Seeks Hearing on Whether Shelby County Prosecutors Should be Recused From His Case Based on Trial Prosecutor’s Possible Conflict of Interest

Alleging that Shelby County Assistant District Attorney General Stephen Jones may have been representing the prosecution in his case while simultaneously serving as a capital case staff attorney assisting the county’s judges, Tennessee death-row prisoner Pervis Payne has moved to disqualify the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office from further participation in his case. Payne is awaiting a scheduled December 13, 2021 court hearing to determine whether he is ineligible for the death penalty because of intellectual disability.

On October 15, 2021, Payne’s post-conviction counsel, Kelley Henry asked the 30th Judicial District Criminal Court in Memphis to schedule a hearing to determine “whether the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office possesses a disqualifying conflict of interest” in the case. Henry presented evidence that Jones worked as a capital case staff attorney during a period in which Payne’s challenge to his conviction and death sentence were pending in the Shelby County courts. Citing sworn testimony from District Court Judge Chris Craft, Payne’s motion alleges that “Jones provided legal guidance to the judges of this criminal court regarding death penalty matters when Jones was employed as a Capital Case Staff Attorney.”

“The facts as presently known create at least the appearance of impropriety that warrants judicial inquiry,” Henry said in the motion.

The issue in Payne’s case is similar to one in the Texas case of death-row prisoner Clinton Young, in which a prosecuting attorney simultaneously served as a judicial clerk to the judge who presided at trial and in post-conviction appeals. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated Young’s conviction on September 22, 2021 as a result of that conflict.

Tennessee scheduled Payne to be executed on December 3, 2020, despite significant evidence of his innocence and that he is ineligible for the death penalty because of intellectual disability. Governor Bill Lee granted him a temporary execution reprieve on November 6, 2020, “due to the challenges and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” On May 10, Tennessee enacted a new statute that cured a defect in Tennessee law that had prevented Payne and other death-row prisoners from challenging their death sentences on the basis of intellectual disability, and Payne immediately filed a petition to vacate his death sentence under the new law.

The court is expected to rule on Payne’s disqualification motion before deciding whether the December 13 intellectual disability hearing can go forward.

During his time as a capital staff attorney, Jones provided judges with legal guidance on death penalty issues. Unlike Young’s case, however, Jones says his staff attorney work did not include work on Payne’s case.

In a hearing in which she presented the motion to the court, Henry told Judge Paula Skahan that the distinction is not dispositive. “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 argued.

“There are just so many questions we can’t answer at this juncture,” Henry told the court. “There’s no way to untether [Jones’] work from the Shelby County DA’s Office.” The conflict, she said, “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.”

Payne is the 1st Tennessee death-row prisoner to file for relief under the state’s new intellectual disability law. If Judge Skahan decides to remove Shelby County prosecutors from the case, she would have to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case, which would postpone the start of that hearing.

Payne, who was sentenced to death for the murders of Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter, has consistently maintained his innocence and said he came upon the scene after they had been attacked. The victims collectively had been stabbed more than 80 times. DNA testing of evidence that had been withheld from the defense found the DNA from an unidentified male, on the handle of the murder weapon. Consistent with his long-standing assertion that he had touched the knife, Payne’s DNA was found elsewhere on the knife, but not on the handle. Judge Skahan said at the time that the presence of the unidentified man’s DNA was not sufficient to prove Payne’s innocence.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

MISSOURI:

Missouri Judge Denies St. Louis City Prosecutor's Request for Outside Prosecutors to Handle Death-Eligible Cases

A St. Louis Circuit Court judge has denied St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner’s July 2021 request for special prosecutors to handle 3 death-eligible homicide cases in her jurisdiction. On October 15, 2021, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hogan wrote that the conflicts cited by Gardner’s office in its request for a special prosecutor were not “disqualifying” and therefore that “the Court has no authority to appoint a special prosecutor.”

Gardner was elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020 on a platform of criminal legal reform, including reduced use of the death penalty. She has said that she is personally opposed to capital punishment and would carefully review individual death-eligible cases. In her request for outside special prosecutors to handle the 3 death-eligible cases, Gardner blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for causing court and trial delays and workloads that were unmanageable given current staffing levels and expertise. Gardner argued that the situation had created “an untenable backlog of serious cases requiring immediate attention by experienced attorneys.”

The court found that this did not constitute a “disqualifying conflict” and that the more appropriate course of action for the prosecutor’s office would be to seek assistance from the attorney general’s office. “This appears to be the proper mechanism to procure assistance for a prosecuting attorney’s office that has no conflict of interest but is unable to handle its caseload, due to the pandemic, staff turnover, or any other reason,” Hogan’s order said. “To this court’s knowledge, however, the circuit attorney has made no request for assistance … to either the governor or to the attorney general.”

“Disqualification is a ‘drastic response’ to concerns that may be better addressed by case management tools, especially given the prosecutor’s statutory duties to commence and prosecute the case,” Hogan wrote. “The Court finds that the purported ‘conflict’ cited by the Circuit Attorney is not a disqualifying conflict under the Rules of Professional Conduct, and the Court has no authority to appoint a special prosecutor … .”

In a blog post, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty criticized Gardner’s actions as a way to maintain her progressive reputation while still seeking the death penalty against Black defendants. “CA Gardner was elected to represent the people of St. Louis City,” the group said. “Her pursuance of the death penalty, particularly upon Black men, does not represent the people of St. Louis City. Despite this, CA Gardner continues to try to hand death ticketed cases to the AG and his office, who have continually been proven unsuccessful, costly to the people of St. Louis City, and re-traumatizes co-victims of horrific crimes.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Death row inmate Julius Jones seeks execution stay

High-profile death row inmate Julius Jones on Wednesday asked an Oklahoma City federal judge for a temporary stay of his execution.

Jones is set to be executed Nov. 18.

Joining him in the emergency request were death row inmates John Marion Grant, Donald A. Grant and Gilbert Ray Postelle.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot scheduled a hearing on the request for Monday morning, just three days before the 1st execution is set to be carried out.

Jones claims that he is innocent, that the real killer framed him and that his trial was unfair. Millions signed a petition in his support after ABC in 2018 aired the documentary series, "The Last Defense," about his innocence claim.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in September set execution dates for 7 inmates at the request of the new attorney general.

Jones and 5 of the inmates had been kicked out of a 2014 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the lethal injection procedure. The 7th inmate, Bigler Jobe Stouffer, was not part of the 2014 lawsuit.

The federal judge kicked Jones and other inmates out of the lawsuit because they had declined on a form "to propose an alternative method of carrying out their sentence of death."

He has since let 1 inmate, James Allen Coddington, back in the lawsuit.

In their request for a stay, attorneys referred to Jones, John Grant, Donald Grant and Postelle as the "Religious Objector Plaintiffs."

The attorneys told the judge the inmates "declined to proffer an alternative on moral, ethical, and/or religious grounds prohibiting them from being complicit in their own deaths in a way that they believe would be akin to suicide or assisting suicide."

They argued Friot clearly misinterpreted U.S. Supreme Court rulings in kicking the inmates off the case.

They also told the judge that former Attorney General Mike Hunter agreed last year not to seek any executions while the legal challenge is pending in Oklahoma City federal court.

They asked the judge to require the new attorney general to keep to that promise in light of a decision Friday at the federal appeals court in Denver. They claim the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in effect reinstated Jones and others to the lawsuit.

A trial over the lawsuit is set to begin Feb. 28.

Friot plans to hear expert testimony at trial about a sedative used at the start of the execution procedure. Death row inmates complain that administering that drug, midazolam, will cause "constitutionally intolerable pain and suffering."

Scheduled for execution 1st is John Grant, 60, an armed robber who was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing a prison kitchen worker in 1998.

His execution is set for Thursday.

Scheduled for execution next is Jones. He was sentenced to death for the 1999 fatal shooting of an Edmond insurance executive during a carjacking. Jurors chose the punishment at a 2002 trial.

The victim, Paul Howell, was gunned down in his parents' driveway in Edmond after a back-to-school shopping trip with his daughters. Stolen was his 1997 Suburban.

A clemency hearing for Jones, 41, is set for Tuesday before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.

The execution for Stouffer is set for Dec. 9. He is on death row for the 1985 fatal shooting of a Putnam City elementary school teacher.

Earlier this month, Stouffer, 79, filed his own legal challenge to the constitutionality of the lethal injection procedure. He also has asked Friot to stay his execution. His clemency hearing is set for Wednesday.

6th is Wade Greely Lay, 60, who was sentenced to death for killing a security guard during a botched bank robbery in 2004. His execution is set for Jan. 6.

Lay is representing himself and could file for a stay, too.

5th is Donald Grant, 45, who was sentenced to death for killing two workers at the LaQuinta Inn in Del City during a 2001 robbery. His execution is set for Jan. 27.

6th is Postelle, 35, who was convicted of murdering four people on Memorial Day 2005 outside a trailer in Del City. He was sentenced to death for two of the murders and to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the other 2.

His execution is set for Feb. 17.

The execution for Coddington is set for March 10.

He was convicted of murdering a friend in Choctaw during a cocaine binge in 1997. The victim was 73.

Coddington, 49, is asking the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to strike his execution. The federal judge let him back in the lawsuit because of evidence he told his attorney his alternative method was the firing squad.

Oklahoma has not carried out an execution in more than 6 years.

(source: oklahoman.com)

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

Oklahoma death row inmates ask federal court to stay execution dates

4 death-row inmates are asking a federal district court to put their execution dates on hold.

Petitioners include Osage County convicted killer John Marion Grant, who is set to be the 1st to be put to death since the state put executions on hold in 2015.

He is set to die Oct. 28 for the stabbing death of Gay Carter, a prison employee at Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy. The Pardon and Parole Board declined to recommend clemency.

Oklahoma County convicted killer Julius Jones is also asking for the preliminary injunction. He is set to die Nov. 18 for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell of Edmond. Jones has a clemency hearing on Tuesday before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.

The other offenders are Donald Grant and Gilbert Postelle.

Grant is set to die Jan. 27 for the 2001 murders of Del City motel workers Brenda McElyea and Suzette Smith.

Postelle is set to die Feb. 17. He was convicted of killing 4 people in 2005 outside a trailer in Del City. He received the death penalty for 2 of the murders.

The district court is expected to hold a hearing on the request at 9 a.m. Monday.

The federal court in February will begin a trial to determine whether Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol violates the Constitution.

Oklahoma put executions on hold in 2015 following the 2014 botched execution of Clayton Lockett and the 2015 execution of Charles Warner using the wrong drug.

(source: Tulsa World)

ARIZONA:

Court upholds death sentence for man who burned ex-roommate to death

An appeals court Thursday rejected an Arizona death-row inmate’s argument that his sentence was unconstitutional because his crime, burning a former roommate to death, was committed in a brief window when the state was revising its death penalty law.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also flatly rejected Leroy McGill’s claims that his conviction should be overturned because his attorney did not adequately represent him.

The court said the work by McGill’s attorney was “thorough and expansive” and that whatever shortcomings there were in the defense case were due to “the weakness of her case and not her ineffective assistance.”

Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith agreed with the majority that McGill’s conviction should be upheld, but said in a partial dissent that the sentence of death was unconstitutional.

“LeRoy McGill could not have been sentenced to death for murder when he committed his crimes because at that time there was no statute implementing the death penalty in Arizona,” Smith wrote.

But Circuit Judge Jay S. Bybee wrote in the majority opinion that McGill knew that the state could seek the death penalty for the murder.

“Arizona did not impose a penalty that was previously unavailable, nor did the state criminalize innocent conduct after the fact,” Bybee wrote. “The state ‘simply altered the method … employed in determining whether the death penalty was to be imposed.'”

Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment, but one public defender said his office was “disappointed with the 2-1 decision.”

“The crime Mr. McGill was convicted of committing occurred after the Arizona death penalty statute was declared unconstitutional … and before the state legislature fixed the statute,” said Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender in Arizona.

The case began on July 13, 2002 – halfway between a June 24 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned Arizona’s death penalty law and the Aug. 1 action by state lawmakers that fixed the law by giving jurors, not judges, the authority to impose the death penalty.

It was on July 13 that McGill confronted Charles Perez, a former roommate in a Sunnyslope duplex who accused McGill of stealing a shotgun from a duplex they were living in. McGill was kicked out of the duplex, but subsequently came back to teach Perez “a lesson, that nobody gets away with talking about” McGill and his girlfriend at the time, according to court documents.

McGill found Perez and his girlfriend, Nova Banta, on a couch in the duplex, where he doused them with gasoline and threw a lit match at them, causing third-degree burns that covered 75% of their bodies. Perez died the following day but Banta survived, allowing her to identify McGill.

McGill was indicted in March 2003 on charges of murder, attempted murder, arson and endangerment. He was convicted on all charges in October 2004 and sentenced to death a month later, based in part on the fact that he was a previous felon and had committed the murder “in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner.”

In his most recent appeals, McGill argued that his attorney failed him by, among other things, not obtaining and retaining necessary expert witness and evidence, not spending sufficient time on the case, not digging into records that would show a troubled childhood and addictions, and more.

McGill said his attorney should have made a stronger case for mitigating circumstances that would have weighed against the imposition of the death penalty. Those included claims that he was sexually abused in a foster home, that he suffered brain injuries and that he began drinking alcohol at age 9, progressed to marijuana by age 13 and was a “chronic, daily methamphetamine” user by the time of the murder.

But a U.S. District Court judge rejected the ineffective assistance of counsel claim, noting that McGill’s attorney spent four days at his sentencing hearing presenting evidence of mitigating factors.

The circuit court on Thursday upheld that ruling, saying McGill’s attorney generally did her job. While she could have looked for more issues in his past, the court noted, attorneys are not required to “scour the globe on the off chance something will turn up.”

“McGill’s counsel presented extensive mitigation evidence and diligently attempted to discover much more,” Bybee wrote.

Baich said his office is considering next steps in the case, but was disappointed that the court did not agree with Smith on the constitutionality of the death sentence in McGill’s case.

“Judge Smith agreed with our argument that the death sentence should be vacated because that penalty was not statutorily available at the time of the crime,” he said. (source: Cronkite News)

NEVADA:

Martinez-Guzman pleads guilty to murders, now faces life sentences instead of death penalty

Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman, the 22-year-old Salvadorian who was facing the possibility of 2 death sentences for the murder of four people, changed his plea to guilty in a Washoe County court Thursday morning.

Martinez Guzman pleaded guilty, after intense questioning by District Court Judge Connie Steinheimer in Reno, to two counts of first-degree murder in the January 2019 deaths of Gerald and Sharon David in their Reno home.

Steinheimer acknowledged the plea took the death penalty off the table and told Martinez Guzman he will have to enter formal guilty pleas in Douglas County to the killings of two women in Gardnerville — Constance Koontz and Sophia Renken — during his 2-week string of crimes.

Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman appears in a Washoe County court room on Oct. 21, 2021 to plead guilty to a string of murders in January 2019.

Martinez-Guzman told police he committed the series of break-ins, thefts and shootings because he needed money to buy methamphetamine.

Steinheimer said that if Martinez-Guzman fails to plead guilty in Douglas County, prosecutors there and Washoe County can void his plea deal and again seek the death penalty.

Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks and Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson spoke on bringing justice and peace to the victims' families.

"The plea entered today is the first domino to fall in a global resolution that will secure justice for the victims and finality for their loved ones." Hicks said during a press conference following the court hearing. "As a result of his pleas, there will not be decades of appeals that become common in death penalty litigation. Most importantly, this resolution brings finality and peace of mind to the family members."

Larry David speaks at the press conference on behalf of the David family. Gerald and Sharon David, Washoe county residents, were among the victims killed during a January 2019 crime spree in Northern Nevada.

Larry David, the son of Gerald David and step-son of Sharon David, thanked the district attorneys and law enforcement agencies for their contribution to the case.

"While no verdict will ever bring healing from the way in which these loved ones were taken from us, as a family, we trust that God has carried us and He will continue to go before us," David said during the press conference.

In March 2020, a grand jury indicted Martinez-Guzman on 10 counts including the murder of 4 Northern Nevadans. Included in the indictment was Martinez-Guzman's confession to the murders that came after police linked him to stolen items, including 12 firearms.

Hicks and Jackson initially planned one death-penalty trial for Martinez Guzman, but the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Sept. 30 that the defendant would have to be tried separately in the 2 county jurisdictions.

Authorities said Martinez Guzman stole a .22-caliber handgun from the Davids' southwest Reno home on Jan. 4, 2019; shot and killed Constance Koontz, 56, and Sophia Renken, 74, in separate attacks in their Gardnerville homes several days later; and returned to the Davids' house to rob and kill them Jan 15.

Gerald David, 81, and his 80-year-old wife were prominent in the Reno Rodeo Association and had employed Martinez Guzman as a landscaper the summer before.

Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks speaks at a press conference regarding Martinez-Guzman’s hearing Thursday morning.

Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks will hold a press conference immediately following Guzman's status hearing.

Martinez Guzman was arrested in Carson City during a manhunt that had investigators track an Apple watch stolen from Koontz to Martinez Guzman’s mother.

Martinez Guzman has been held without bail at the Washoe County Detention Facility in Reno.

Washoe County sheriff’s Detective Stefanie Brady told a grand jury several weeks after Martinez Guzman's arrest that he initially denied wrongdoing but later acknowledged through a Spanish interpreter he had “done something that’s unforgivable.”

“He said he needed the money for the meth,” Brady testified.

The case drew attention at the time from then-President Donald Trump, who said it showed the need to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

(source: Reno Gazette-Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Scott Peterson denied bail ahead of re-sentencing for murder of wife and unborn son----He’s spent the last 15 years on San Quentin’s death row.

Scott Peterson will remain behind bars.

Peterson, who murdered his pregnant wife and unborn son in 2002, was denied bail ahead of a December hearing where he will be re-sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, a judge ruled Wednesday.

He’s spent the last 15 years on San Quentin’s death row. But the California Supreme Court tossed out his sentence last year, and prosecutors have decided they no longer want to seek his execution.

Peterson is expected to be transferred to the San Mateo County courthouse on Dec. 8 for re-sentencing.

Family members of Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her death, plan to appear or provide statements to the court at the re-sentencing hearing, Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager said on Wednesday. Peterson’s attorneys said they also expect supporters to appear for their client, too.

During the nearly hour-long hearing on Wednesday, Peterson’s attorneys and prosecutors also argued over whether lawyers with Habeas Corpus Resource Center could stay on as his counsel for Peterson’s new trial.

The California Supreme Court overturned Peterson’s death sentence last year after it found jurors who personally disagreed with the death penalty but were willing to impose it were dismissed improperly. The high court last year also ordered Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo to decide if Peterson should get a new trial to determine if juror misconduct occurred during Peterson’s 2004 trial.

Prosecutors on Wednesday said since Peterson is no longer facing death, his appellate attorneys should no longer be able to represent him because, by law, they only handle death penalty cases.

"So now we have them saying even in cases where we don’t have jurisdiction, because we want to stay, the court should not inquire whether we should stay on these cases or not," said Stanislaus County Assistant District Attorney David Harris. "And I think that’s more of a bad precedent than the court looking at this in the first place to determine what the court gets to do and what their jurisdiction is. …They are capital habeas litigators, but they want to stay on a non-capital case."

Michael J. Hersek, executive director of the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, which has represented Peterson in his appeal, said the lower court judge does not have the jurisdiction to determine if Peterson’s attorneys should be vacated from the case.

"In our mind, withdrawing from the case after a partial victory, does two things," Hersek said. "Number one, it would abandon Mr. Peterson in this case, which would not be fair to him. Number two, it would send a terrible message in all of our other cases because we spend years developing relationships with our clients … relationships of trust that require them to provide us a great deal of information about not only their social history and their life issues, but also the facts of the underlying offense. Not only would we lose the trust and confidence of all of our clients because they will see us as a penalty phase only shop, because once we get partial victory, they’re out of luck. And we can’t have that. That’s an institutional concern from our point of view."

The judge ordered Peterson’s attorneys to speak to their client to determine if he would agree to sign a "waiver of irregularities" that could allow them to stay on as his counsel. Both sides will come back on November 10 to discuss the waiver issue.

(source: FOX news)

USA:

Panelists urge Catholics to discuss death penalty at parish level

During an online panel about the death penalty Oct. 19, panelists stressed how capital punishment goes against church teaching, and they also urged the nearly 500 participants to promote this discussion at their own parishes by tapping into available resources.

“We’re here to help you; if you want to do more with your parish, reach out to us,” said Dominican Sister Terry Rickard, president and executive director of Renew International, a group that helps parishes strengthen parishioners’ leadership roles.

Renew International and the Archdiocese of Washington sponsored the panel, which featured Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, and longtime advocate against the death penalty, and Jeannine Marino, secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the Washington Archdiocese.

Marino was filling in for Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory who could not attend at the last minute due to a dental emergency.

Marino noted that “our parishes are the heart of where we experience Catholic faith” and said that on the life issue of Catholic opposition to the death penalty parishes could tap into resources from Catholic Mobilizing Network which offers a Respect Life Month toolkit with anti-death penalty information, advocacy ideas and prayers.

Catholic Mobilizing Network, together with Renew International, also offers the publication “Dignity and the Death Penalty: Evolution of Catholic Teaching,” which is a small-group resource that can be divided up into material for small-group sessions.

“Whenever you gather with your parish, trust the spirit,” said Sister Prejean, who said that her own passion against the death penalty happened “because the Gospel woke me up.”

She said when she initially started writing to someone on death row, she thought it was something she could certainly take on “as an English major.” Two years later, she accompanied this inmate and prayed with him at his execution.

That experience changed her, she said, adding: “There has been a fire in me ever since.”

The Louisiana sister said she knows most Americans will never see the death penalty up close and she sees her role as someone who can share what she has seen and also emphasize the human dignity of the men and women on death row.

Marino said she was 21 and volunteering in prison ministry when she first heard Sister Prejean speak about the consistent life ethic.

And in her own work in the church, Marino has seen this firsthand, noting that the church has “always celebrated and upheld life and dignity of all persons.”

“We haven’t always given correct witness to this, but that is our teaching,” she said, noting that Catholics have spoken out against violence of abortion, domestic violence, gun violence and the death penalty.

Sister Prejean is very clear on this point, emphasizing in the panel discussion that “pro-life sounds like pro-innocent life” but it needs to encompass all life, even lives of those guilty of crimes.

She also noted the church has evolved in its teaching on this from “tolerating the death penalty to calling it inadmissible.”

“We’re a living church; we’re always changing on something,” she added.

She said St. John Paul II “set the volleyball over the net and Pope Francis knocked it over,” referring to the late pope’s message in St. Louis in 1999 where he called the death penalty “cruel and unusual” and to Pope Francis’ revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018 to say that the death penalty was “inadmissible” because it was an affront to human dignity.

Promotional material about “Dignity and the Death Penalty” — which came out earlier this year and is available online at https://bit.ly/3CcvGZK — said the parish resource comes at a “pivotal moment in the death penalty abolition movement” with executions and death sentencing rates on the decline and public opposition to capital punishment at a record high.

It also said that Catholics involved in this issue around the country “could have a huge impact on the movement to end state-sponsored executions.”

(source: catholicsun.org)

IRAN----executions

Baluch Prisoners Saeed Sadeghi and Zakaria Baluch Executed

Zakaria Baluch, sentenced to death on drug related charges, was executed in Zahedan Central Prison, and Saeed Sadeghi sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, was executed in Saravan Prison.

According to the Baluch Activists Campaign, a Baluch man was executed in Zahedan Central Prison on the morning of October 19. His identity has been reported as Zakaria Baluch who was sentenced to death on drug-related charges in 2018.

An informed source was reported as saying: “Zakaria picked up a passenger in his own car and was driving him across the city with his belongings in Zakaria’s car boot when the police stopped them on suspicion. The passenger escaped as the police were approaching his car. The police found the drugs in his boot when they searched the car.”

According to the report, Zakaria had repeatedly maintained his innocence in court.

Another Baluch man was executed in Saravan Prison on October 19. His identity has been reported as Saeed Sadeghi who was sentenced to qisas for murder.

An informed source said: “Saeed was arrested and sentenced to death on charges of murder 20 years ago, which was carried out this morning.”

At the time of writing, neither 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 93 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.

(source: iranhr.net)

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

Iran’s Increasing Execution Rate Fuels Calls for International Actions

In the 2nd week of October alone, at least 16 executions were carried out in Iran. With more than 2 months left until the end of 2021, Iran under the mullahs’ regime has already exceeded estimates of the total number of executions in the previous year. According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, at least 255 executions were carried out in 2020, while the estimated total for 2021 stood at 286 on Monday, following 3 executions that day.

Iran under the clerical regime has long maintained its status as the country with the highest annual rate of executions per capita. In terms of raw numbers, only China with its population of over one billion carries out more state-sanctioned killings each year. Iran is also one of only a few countries in the world to routinely issue death sentences for persons who were under the age of 18 at the time of their alleged crimes. This practice is unequivocally banned under international law, as is the use of the death penalty.

Regardless of the Iranian regime’s account of the total execution, the fact remains that officials are quite willing to openly acknowledge the practice, thereby signaling their rejection of international human rights standards.

It is worth noting the well-recognized phenomenon of the regime’s security forces securing confessions under torture.

In some cases, the regime authorities use murder charges as a pretense for politically motivated executions. This was evidently the case with Navid Afkari, a widely admired champion wrestler who was accused of killing a security guard during anti-regime protests and was executed in September 2020 despite an international campaign to save his life. It was later revealed that surveillance footage existed which appeared to prove his innocence, underlining that he was indeed executed for participating in protests.

Afkari’s execution took place under the tenure of Ebrahim Raisi as head of the judiciary. Raisi had also overseen key aspects of the crackdown on nationwide protests in November 2019, which saw 1,500 protesters killed and countless others tortured. Earlier this year, Raisi was selected as the regime’s new president, sparking new protests over his role in the crackdown as well as his longstanding legacy as a violator of human rights and one of the regime’s foremost advocates for capital punishment, other forms of corporal punishment, and the violent suppression of dissent.

In the summer of 1988, Raisi became one of four officials to sit on the Tehran “death commission” that implementation of a fatwa from the regime’s Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini which primarily targeted the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) supporters. For roughly 3 months, Raisi oversaw the interrogation and summary execution of anyone believed to still harbor sympathy for the MEK. It is estimated that at the end of that period, over 30,000 political prisoners lay dead.

Raisi is only the latest in a series of participants in that massacre who have been rewarded with positions of substantial influence in the Iranian government and society. Of course, as the regime’s current president, he is now the foremost example and the person with the most power to revive the legacy of the 1988 massacre in current circumstances. His crackdown on dissent in 2019 and the ongoing acceleration of Iran’s execution rate both suggest that this process is well underway, and this in turn fuels calls for the international community to take meaningful action in support of human rights.

On Monday, Iranian expatriate activists held the latest in a series of rallies in Stockholm to bring greater attention to the 1988 massacre and the longstanding lack of accountability for its perpetrators. The event coincided with the 30th session of the Swedish criminal court’s trial of Hamid Noury, a former Iranian prison official who was arrested based on the principle of universal jurisdiction in 2019, and later arraigned on charges of war crimes and mass murder stemming from his role in the massacre.

The same principle could be applied to Ebrahim Raisi, who should be barred from traveling to any Western nation, or else arrested after he does so. Earlier in October, former Member of the European Parliament Struan Stevenson issued a formal request for this arrest to Police Scotland when it appeared as if Raisi might travel to Glasgow for the COP26 climate change conference.

(source: ncr-iran.org)

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

Fate of teen offender facing execution in Iran 'rests with victim's family'----Arman Abdolali is on death row for killing his girlfriend when he was just 17

Rights groups have criticised Iran after a senior official said the fate of a condemned man convicted of a murder he committed at the age of 17 is in the hands of the victim’s family.

Arman Abdolali, now 25, is facing the gallows for killing his girlfriend following a 2015 trial marred by confessions obtained under torture, according to Amnesty International.

Iran has cancelled the planned execution on at least two occasions after international outcries. Abdolali has been moved in and out of solitary confinement at Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj, on the outskirts of Tehran, over the last week in preparation for his execution.

The UN said the hanging would breach international laws banning the death penalty for people who committed crimes while under the age of 18.

A senior Iranian justice official has told Iran’s official news agency IRNA that the family of the dead woman could spare his life in return for blood money. Resolving the dispute has been complicated by the failure to find the young woman’s body, the official said.

But the UN and Amnesty International said that responsibility lay with Iran to uphold international rules on the rights of the child.

“The fact stands that Arman Abdolali faces the gallows because Iranian courts sentenced him to death in flagrant breach of international law,” Amnesty said. “The imminent execution of Arman Abdolali also exposes yet again the complicity of successive parliaments in the assault on children’s rights.”

UN human rights experts said that while the authorities had encouraged negotiations about a pardon that did not replace prohibition on executions.

There are reportedly more than 85 juvenile offenders on death row in Iran despite Iran signing an agreement banning the practice in 1968.

“International human rights law unequivocally forbids imposition of the death sentence on anyone under 18 years of age,” said the experts, who include the special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman.

(source: thenationalnews.com)

SYRIA----executions

Syria says 24 executed for starting wildfires----Justice ministry says those executed were ‘criminals’ responsible for the deaths and damage to infrastructure and public property.

Syria has executed 24 people after charging them with igniting wildfires last year that left 3 people dead and burned thousands of hectares (acres) of forests, the justice ministry said.

Although executions are common in war-torn Syria, the number of those put to death on Wednesday was larger than usual.

Those executed were charged with “committing terrorist acts that led to death and damage to state infrastructure and public and private property through the use of flammable material”, the justice ministry said in a statement carried by state media on Thursday.

11 others were sentenced to hard labour for life, 4 to temporary penal labour and 5 minors were handed jail sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years for similar charges, it added.

Their identities were not disclosed, and no details were provided on where and how the executions took place.

The suspects, the ministry said, were identified late last year in an interior ministry probe into wildfires in the provinces of Latakia, Tartus and Homs.

“They confessed that they had started fires at several locations in the three provinces and they also confessed to convening meetings to plan the fires” that occurred intermittently in September and October 2020, according to the justice ministry.

It said it documented 187 fires affecting 280 towns and villages last year.

They devastated 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of agricultural land and 11,000 hectares of forest land, while also damaging more than 370 homes, the justice ministry said.

President Bashar al-Assad’s hometown of Qardaha in Latakia province was hard hit by the fires, which heavily damaged a building used as storage for the state-owned tobacco company, part of which collapsed.

Al-Assad made a rare visit to the region shortly after the fire was brought under control.

Syria Researcher at Human Rights Watch Sara Kayyali told Al Jazeera that the news of the 24 executions was “shocking”.

“What we know from the counterterrorism courts from the cases that we’ve seen in the past is that there is no due process afforded for anyone who is accused of an act of terrorism – no right to a defence and no lawyer” Kayyali said.

“This action by the Syrian government really signals how far we have to go to reform the system before any Syrian is safe.”

Syrian law still provides for the death penalty for offences including terrorism, arson and army desertion, according to rights group Amnesty International.

In its latest death penalty report published this year, Amnesty said it was able to corroborate information indicating that executions took place in Syria in 2020 but said it did not have sufficient information to give a reliable minimum figure.

The death penalty is usually carried out by hanging in Syria.

Syria Researcher at Amnesty International Diana Semaan told Al Jazeera that confessions are “routinely extracted under torture or other ill-treatment and duress”.

Syria’s decade-old conflict has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced half the country’s population, including five million refugees outside the country.

(source: aljazeera.com)

KUWAIT:

4kg of drugs from Iran busted----Contraband was stowed in furniture container

Kuwaiti customs officers seized four kilograms of drugs hidden inside a furniture container shipped from Iran, local media reported.

The haul of methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant locally known as shabu, was seized at the Shuwaikh port, according to Al Rai newspaper.

The illicit stuff was elaborately stowed inside the furniture, it added. No arrests were reported.

In August, Kuwait’s customs authorities said they had seized 1.5 kilograms of drugs hidden in boxes of fruits also coming from Iran.

Two months earlier, customs officers at the Kuwait Airport thwarted an attempt to smuggle 5 kilograms of pure drugs into a chocolate shipment also coming from Iran, local media reported at the time.

The drugs were stashed below chocolate bars, according to a customs official. A man of Arab nationality, who showed up to receive the shipment, was arrested in connection to the case.

Kuwait applies tough penalties in drug cases, including the death penalty.

(source: gulfnews.com)

BANGLADESH:

Policeman sentenced to death for killing wife

A policeman has been sentenced to death in Bangladesh for killing his wife. The court sentenced Mohammad Mahmood Alam to death.

He had strangled his wife to death in a rented house 2 years ago after a family feud. Alam, who was working as a policeman in the Armed Police Battalion at Shiromani of Khulna at the time, killed his second wife, Johanna Akhtar Usha.

(source: nepalnews.com.np)

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

Man who livestreamed wife’s murder gets death penalty

A court has handed a death sentence to a Feni man who hacked his wife to death and livestreamed the incident on Facebook.

Feni District and Sessions Judge Jebunnesa announced the verdict on Thursday.

The court also fined convict Obaidul Haque Bhuiyan Tutul Tk 50,000.

Tutul, who hails from Barahipur in Feni, was present in the dock when the verdict was announced.

According to case documents, following a domestic feud, Tutul tied his wife Tahmina Akhter, 28, and hacked her to death on Apr 15, 2020. He also livestreamed the incident on Facebook.

“Tahmina used to blackmail my family. From today, my family will be spared from blackmail,” Tutul had said during the livestreaming.

He also begged forgiveness from everyone for killing his wife and requested them to take care of his daughter.

After a lockdown was imposed in Dhaka due to the pandemic, Tutul, who worked at a clothing store in the city, returned to his village home.

After killing his wife, Tutul called the 333 emergency line and asked the police to come over. Police came and seized his mobile phone and the machete used to kill Tahmina.

Tahmina Akhter was the daughter of Shahabuddin from Akdia village in Cumilla. She eloped with Tutul and married him. The couple reportedly fought regularly over their lack of money. Tutul allegedly beat his wife for a dowry and took money from his in-laws quite a few times, according to the case documents.

At one point, Tahmina refused to provide money from her parents, even after Tutul pressured her.

Tahmina’s father Shahabuddin filed a murder case on the day his daughter was killed, said public prosecutor Hafez Ahmed.

On Nov 11 that year, investigation officer SI Md Imran Hossain submitted the charge sheet to the court.

The court framed the charges on Dec 15 and began recording testimony on Jan 13, 2021.

“We got justice. My daughter’s soul will be at peace if the verdict is implemented soon. We hope it will be soon,” said Tahmina’s father.

Defence lawyer Abdus Sattar said the verdict will be appealed at a higher court.

“The verdict was given based on a statement recorded under section 164. We haven’t received justice. We’ll appeal to the High Court soon,” he said.

(source: bdnews24.com)

INDIA:

Odisha Court Upholds Death Penalty Of 9 In 'Witch-Hunting' Case----Rayagada district judge today upheld the judgement passed by Gunupur Additional District and Sessions judge in 2019.

A district court in Odisha on Thursday upheld the capital punishment awarded to 9 persons in connection with a triple murder case in Rayagada district in 2016. The Rayagada district judge today upheld the judgement passed by Gunupur Additional District and Sessions judge in 2019. The court had found the 9 accused guilty of the homicide of a couple and their young daughter at Kitum village under Putasingh police limits on suspicion of practicing sorcery.

"3 members of a family including a couple and their daughter were brutally murdered on September 9, 2016. The minor daughter of the couple was the eyewitness of the triple murder," public prosecutor Ajit Patnaik said.

"Gunupur additional district and sessions judge on April 13, 2019 had convicted all the 9 accused and sentenced death penalty to them mentioning it as a rarest of rare case," he added.

However, the convicts had challenged the judgement in the Orissa High Court. While hearing the petitions, the HC had again sent the case back to the lower court asking for a retrial of the judgement.

The district and sessions judge of Rayagada Bikram Keshari Patnaik again convicted all the accused and upheld the death penalty.

Notably, Asina Sabar (48), his wife Ambei (40) and their elder daughter Asmani (26) were assaulted and killed by the convicts at Kitum village under Putasingh police limits on suspicion of practicing sorcery September 9, 2016.

(source: odishatv.in)

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

Death Penalty- "We Need To Acknowledge The Person We Are Dealing With At least At The Stage Of Sentencing": Orissa HC Chief Justice Muralidhar

https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/death-penalty-sentencing-mental-health-accused-victim-justice-muralidhar-183992?infinitescroll=1

(source: livelaw.in)

PAKISTAN:

2 drug peddlers awarded death penalty

Additional District and Sessions Judge (ASJ) Jatoi Mazhar Shafique, on Friday awarded death sentence to 2 convict, drug peddlers.

According to the prosecution, Shehr Sultan police arrested two notorious drug dealers Nusrat s/o Lajor and Naqeebullah s/o Jalaludin residents of Qila Abdullah in a case, No 37/21 under section 9-C CNSA registered against them for possession of over 27-kilograms of Hashish.

However, the District Police Officer (DPO) Muhammad Hassan Iqbal appreciated the police officers for early completion of investigation on merit.

He announced prizes for the investigation team and urged officers to complete investigations of all pending cases at the earliest.

(source: urdupoint.com)

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

Islamic body to consider anti-rape laws, death penalty

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has decided to take up 2 critical issues related to rape cases in the country. In its next meeting, the Islamic body would consider punishment of castration for rape convicts and sessions courts’ role in deciding rape cases.

It will also examine the possibility of penal punishment instead of death in some crimes.

An agenda for the next meeting to be held on October 26-27 was issued on Thursday.

“In view of some important issues” the meeting has been called with 12 members instead of the full strength of 20 because the positions of 8 specialists lay vacant after members retired in May this year, the release said.

The council has invited a former member Justice (retd) Raza Khan to participate as a legal expert while a representative from the Law Ministry will also attend according to the rules.

The meeting presided over by CII Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz will consider the following points, according to the agenda released on Thursday.

1.Resolution to appreciate the announcement on the formation of the Rehmatulil Alameen Authority by the prime minister.

2.Bill prohibiting corporal punishment for children.

3.Examining the possibility of penal punishment instead of the death penalty in some crimes.

4.Bill to declare Arabic a compulsory subject at educational institutions.

5.Naat recitation and its Shariah style.

6.Protection of plants and wildlife: Islamic rules and teachings.

7.Sessions courts’ power to hear rape cases.

8.Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 2020, [which added section 376-B to CCP to allow] castration of a person convicted of rape [would be reviewed from] Shariah point of view.

9.Bill for legislation on the moonsighting

10.Movement to make the marriage ceremonies affordable

Rape cases in sessions courts

In May this year, President Dr Arif Alvi designated all sessions courts throughout the country as special courts to hear rape cases.

He promulgated an ordinance after consultations with the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

The special court will include state-of-the-art infrastructure, audio and video recording and video link facilities, a statement released at the time said.

A dedicated and gender sensitised courtroom environment for the trial of rape and sexual assault cases is now becoming a reality for women and children across Pakistan, it added.

(source: samaa.tv)

JAPAN:

Death penalty sought for ex-nurse over murders of 3 patients

Prosecutors on Friday demanded the death penalty for a former nurse, accused of killing 3 patients by putting a disinfectant into their intravenous drips at a Yokohama hospital near Tokyo in 2016.

Ayumi Kuboki, 34, has admitted to premeditatedly mixing an antiseptic solution into the drip bags, causing the patients to die, in a high-profile lay judge trial at the Yokohama District Court.

Prosecutors pointed out that while the defendant exhibited traits of autism, she was fully competent to stand trial, and the disorder did not affect her decision-making or play a part in her carrying out the crimes.

The defense counsel argued in the trial that Kuboki had a diminished capacity at the time of the crimes brought on by schizophrenia.

According to the indictment, Kuboki killed 3 inpatients -- Sozo Nishikawa, 88, Asae Okitsu, 78, and Nobuo Yamaki, 88 -- at the erstwhile Oguchi Hospital, by injecting disinfectant into their IV drip bags in September 2016 with the intention of killing them.

Prosecutors said Kuboki set the timing of the IV drips so that the patients would die after she was already off duty to avoid having to deal with the families over their deaths.

"She acted very selfishly...although she was in a position to protect people who are socially vulnerable," prosecutors said.

Ahead of the prosecutors' arguments, Nishikawa's daughter gave a statement before the court.

"I can hardly think the defendant felt remorse over what she did. I want her to atone for her crimes with death," she said, referring to the defendant who repeatedly responded, "I do not remember," during questioning.

(source: Kyodo News)

GAMBIA:

Man sentenced to death for murder

One Momodou Korka Jallow was last Thursday sentenced to death by the High Court, presided over by Justice Sainabou W. Cisse after he was convicted of murder.

The state alleged that Momodou Korka Jallow on the 16th September 2016 at Old Yumdum village in the West Coast Region, unlawfully caused the death of one Abdoulie Dabbi Bah, by stabbing him with a knife.

The prosecution led by Muhammed B Sowe of the Attorney General’s Chambers called 8 witnesses to prove the charges against Momodou Korka Jallow.

The accused testified in his defence as a lone witness and advanced provocation and self-defence as reasons for stabbing Bah.

The trial judge dismissed his defence of provocation and self-defence as he failed to lead evidence to support his claim.

Justice Sainabou W Cisse found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to death.

(source: standard.gm)

ZIMBABWE:

Zimbabwean Man Sentenced To Death For Murdering His Employee

A High Court judge Monday sentenced a Hwedza man to death for the 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 whose body was found in the dam days after he went missing.

Murombo allegedly struck Musarandoga on the head with an axe at a farm along the Hwedza Highway, forged a suicide note directing him to sell properties from the deceased’s home and disappeared. < P> The police pursued him along the Harare-Chirundu Highway in a high-speed chase, shot him in the leg as he tried to escape and eventually arrested him.

Murombo denied killing Musarandoga saying he parted with him after the deceased had agreed to give him a vehicle as payment for a US$4 000 debt.

But Justice Justice Priscillah Munangati-Manongwa ruled that Murombo had failed to convince the court that he was innocent. Munangati-Manongwa said:

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.

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

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.

(source: pindula.co.zw)

UNITED KINGDOM:

World Day Against the Death Penalty 2021: UK statement----UK Ambassador Neil Bush reaffirms the UK's longstanding policy to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances, as a matter of principle.

Thank you Madam Chair.

We thank the EU for placing this topic on the agenda to ensure we mark, and reflect on, the World Day against the Death Penalty which was on Sunday 10 October.

The United Kingdom has a longstanding policy to oppose the Death Penalty in all circumstances, as a matter of principle. We believe that its use undermines human dignity, that there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value, and that any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is irreversible and irreparable. 

The UK Government lobbies governments bilaterally to establish moratoriums or abolish the death penalty, and continues to fund projects dedicated to abolishing the death penalty, and to partner with leading NGOs to reduce its use around the world.

Madam Chair,

We remain concerned by the continuing use of the death penalty in the OSCE area and call for a moratorium on executions as a 1st step towards full abolition. 

Thank you.

(source: www.gov.uk)

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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

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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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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