"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Les fantômes du quartier des condamnés à mort

Click here to Google translate the following text into English (or into your own language).

« La guillotine rend tout dérisoire.» - Robert Badinter

Les locaux de la Folie-Regnault, moins fréquentés que les abords de la Roquette un jour d'exécution, n'en furent pas moins visités à de nombreuses reprises et par toutes sortes de personnes. Par des hommes d'État, des missions étrangères venus se rendre compte de l'efficacité de la machine, ou par des visiteurs privilégiés que l'exécuteur avait l'obligation de recevoir, bien qu'il détestât ce genre d'exhibition. Car il se trouve des gens que la recherche du grand frisson conduisit à « toucher » les bois de justice, à demander au bourreau de l'essayer sur les traditionnelles bottes de paille qui servaient à tester l'affûtage du couperet. Lorsque la demande était officielle, il était obligé d'obtempérer. Mais il arriva que Maman Clarence, en son absence, propose une visite à l'intérieur de la remise, pour des inconnus de passage, aussi curieux d'émotions fortes que reconnaissants d'avoir été secrètement accueillis. Une jeune Anglaise, un jour, voulut se coucher sur la bascule et passer la tête sous la lunette. Accrochés au-dessus de sa tête, quarante kilos de bois, de fonte et d'acier en suspension...

Il faut dire que la Veuve était impressionnante lorsqu'on l'avait dressée sur ses axes verticaux de quatre mètres cinquante, du haut desquels, à plus de vingt kilomètres à l'heure, la lame oblique dessinée par le docteur Louis tranchait une tête en deux centièmes de seconde ! Il existait deux guillotines : l'une, pesant cinq cent quatre-vingts kilos, ne servait qu'à Paris ; l'autre, plus légère et plus maniable, était transportée par voie de chemin de fer en province, et par deux fois elle passera les frontières.

Tel un jeu de construction, les aides du bourreau chargeaient dans le fourgon du père Mémi les éléments entreposés dans le hangar de la Folie-Regnault d'abord, puis de la Santé, pour les conduire sur le lieu de l'exécution. Chaque pièce était à sa place, comme sur un établi, marquée à la craie de sa silhouette encore innocente. La « notice » du docteur Louis, qui décrivait la guillotine par le menu pour en faciliter la construction et le montage, évoquait déjà la « machine à Deibler », à quelques détails près. De la Bastille à la Santé, elle était restée fidèle à la tradition républicaine. Elle était ainsi composée, depuis plus d'un siècle, « de deux montants parallèles, en bois de chêne, de la hauteur de dix pieds, joints en haut par une traverse, et montés solidement sur une robe avec des contrefiches de côté et par-derrière. Ces deux montants seront à un pied de distance et auront six pouces d'épaisseur. La face interne de ces montants aura une cannelure longitudinale, carrée, d'un pouce de profondeur, pour recevoir les oreillons d'un tranchoir. À la partie supérieure de chacun de ces montants, au-dessous de la traverse, et dans les épaisseurs, sera placée une poulie de cuivre. Le tranchoir, de bonne trempe, de la solidité des meilleurs couperets, fait par un habile taillandier, coupera par sa convexité. Cette lame tranchante aura huit pouces d'étendue traversable et six de hauteur. Le dos de cette lame coupante sera épais comme celui d'une hache. Sous ce dos seront, par le forgeron, pratiquées des ouvertures pour pouvoir, avec des cerceaux de fer, fixer sur ce dos un poids de trente livres et plus. Le tranchoir devant glisser de haut en bas dans les rainures des deux montants, son dos aura un pied de travers plus deux oreillons carrés, d'un pouce de saillie, pour entrer dans ces rainures. Une corde, assez forte, et d'une longueur suffisante, passera dans l'anneau et soutiendra le tranchoir, sous la traverse supérieure. Le billot de bois sur lequel doit être posé le col du patient aura huit pouces de haut et quatre pouces d'épaisseur... »

Depuis la Révolution, la machine dont se servait Anatole Deibler n'avait donc pas beaucoup changé. Son allure générale était la même, à l'exception de quelques perfectionnements notamment apportés par son père, dont la pose, de chaque côté du mouton, de roulettes destinées à l'accélération de la chute, et de ressorts disposés au bas des montants pour en amortir l'arrêt. Le bruit qui suit la libération du couperet dans les rainures de fer des montants verticaux, le son mat enfin, qui conclut le travail de la lame, rend « la mangeuse d'hommes » plus effrayante encore. Et le silence pesant qui règne après la chute du couteau, plus terrible que la mort elle-même.

Pour la monter, les aides du bourreau s'y prenaient une heure avant l'exécution, bien qu'il leur fallût moins de temps pour la dresser dans des conditions normales ; car tout s'emboîte, se visse ou se boulonne pour éviter le moindre bruit, le moindre indice qui puisse réveiller le condamné dans la cellule qu'il occupe, toujours à proximité du lieu de l'exécution. Ils commençaient par disposer sur le sol un croisillon d'appui en forme de T, puis ils dressaient les deux montants qu'ils étayaient par quatre jambes de force. À la Roquette, la structure reposait sur cinq dalles fichées dans le sol à demeure, à l'angle de la rue de la Croix-Faubin. Les deux montants, espacés de trente-sept centimètres, pèsent près de cent quarante kilos ; ils sont reliés par un linteau appelé « le chapeau », dans lequel prend place la pince qui retient le couteau surmonté par le mouton. En face des montants, les aides mettaient alors en place un bâti de bois sur lequel ils accrochaient la bascule, de la taille d'un homme. Une fois rabattue à la perpendiculaire du couteau, cette planche montée sur roulettes était poussée jusqu'aux montants, la tête du condamné reposant alors sur la partie inférieure de la lunette. La partie supérieure, qui est aussi en demi-lune, est fixée sur les montants verticaux, prête à s'abattre sur la nuque de celui qui était précipité sur la bascule.

Enfin, il ne faut pas omettre une troisième amélioration, plus fondamentale que les précédentes, et qui permettait à l'exécuteur d'accélérer le déclenchement du couperet. Celui-ci, vissé sur le mouton, est retenu par une flèche d'acier engagée dans une énorme pince, elle-même pressée par un système de ressorts. Il suffisait alors d'écarter ces ressorts au moyen d'une tringle pour que la pince s'ouvre aussitôt : la flèche, qui n'est plus maintenue, tombe alors avec le couperet. C'est ce qui explique l'usage des deux manettes utilisées par le bourreau qui constitue l'amélioration technique la plus notable qu'ait inventée le dernier Deibler. « L'une des deux manettes, un simple bouton, explique François Foucart, abat la partie mobile du carcan et ce casse-tête se rabat violemment sous l'effet des ressorts. Dans le meilleur des cas, le condamné est assommé. Frappé à la nuque, il s'imagine avoir été manqué par le couperet et tente de retirer sa tête, d'instinct. » L'effort ainsi fourni par le condamné est tel que la mort survient souvent en même temps que la chute du couteau. « Toute l'habileté du bourreau, insiste Foucart, consiste à manoeuvrer simultanément le bouton qui, lâchant un ressort, abat la partie supérieure du casse-tête, puis la poignée qui déclenche la chute du couperet. Cette poignée de cuivre, usée, patinée, ressemble au bec-de-cane d'une honnête épicerie de campagne... Ces deux gestes, en une seconde ou deux, c'était toute l'habileté d'Anatole Deibler. Trop tôt, c'est peut-être la tête mal engagée ; trop tard, c'est prolonger le supplice. »

Quand il avait pris ses fonctions, Anatole Deibler s'était fait un point d'honneur de les exercer dans les règles et selon les instructions nettes et précises données au bourreau. Un texte, rédigé à son intention, exigeait de lui qu'il s'y conformât, auquel cas, disait déjà le document du secrétaire perpétuel de l'Académie de chirurgie de Paris sous la Révolution : « S'il y avait quelques erreurs dans ces détails, elles seraient faciles à vérifier. » L'appareil devait être « essayé » après avoir été monté, puis le premier soin de l'exécuteur en chef était d'enlever la vis mobile qui arrêtait le ressort de la lunette. Ensuite, il agissait de la façon suivante, édictée point par point par les fonctionnaires du ministère de la Justice :

« Il prendra en main la grosse corde munie d'un anneau en forme de huit. Cet anneau doit être passé au crochet fixe du couperet. En tirant sur la corde, il montera le couperet jusque sous le chapiteau. Il constatera que le couperet n'est plus maintenu que par la double pince à ressort. Il écartera les deux cordes, la grosse, la petite, et les fera passer dans les deux crochets d'acier disposés à cet effet le long du montant gauche. Il placera le grand panier parallèlement à la plate-forme et immédiatement au-dessous du plan incliné. Il s'assurera que le seau de zinc, en forme de baignoire, est derrière l'appareil. Il disposera autour du seau le paravent en bois qui est destiné à contenir les jets de sang et les éclaboussures. Il relèvera la lunette en la prenant de la main droite par la poignée de fer. La guillotine est ainsi apprêtée... »

Extrait de : Anatole Deibler, l'homme qui trancha 400 têtes, Gérard A. Jaeger, Editions du Félin, 2001

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Future Of Ohio's Death Penalty Hangs On Legality Of Midazolam

In 2014, Dennis McGuire of Montgomery County was executed. The process did not go as planned.

Witnesses reported McGuire struggled against his restraints and made choking noises before finally dying after 26 minutes, an unusually long time for that process.

No executions have happened in Ohio since, and the state has been caught in a protracted legal battle over which drugs can be used in executions.

The latest chapter in that battle happened last week in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The court heard arguments from the state and from Mark Haddad, a lawyer representing three death row inmates.

A previous injunction from a lower court judge, halting the state's execution process, questioned the use of the drug midazolam. A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court upheld the injunction.

But in light of one judge's vehement dissent and an urging from Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine's office, the full bench of the Sixth Circuit Court agreed to void the panel's decision and take up the case.

Doug Berman, professor at the Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University, says that the question at the heart of the case has a lot of historical precedent.

"Whether it's firing squad, hanging, electrocution, guillotine ... though it's possible to make that painless, it seems like there's a chance if done improperly that there would be excruciating pain in the execution process," Berman says. "Lethal injection emerged and was adopted by every state including Ohio because of the belief, the hope, the desire to have a method that would be painless in carrying out a death sentence."

Whether midazolam ensures a painless death, though, is up for debate. Haddad argues that midazolam puts the prisoners at risk of cruel and unusual punishment, and the state could return to using a single overdose of pentobarbital.

Ohio is not the only one struggling with the legality of midazolam. Arkansas has also faced legal setbacks, including one in April from the U.S. Supreme Court, to carrying out its own executions.

And that means this case could have nationwide implications.

Source: radio.wosu.org, Clare Rothe, June 22, 2017


Man Sentenced to Death Penalty in Girlfriend's Ohio Slaying


An Illinois man convicted of abducting his estranged girlfriend from Kentucky and killing her along an Ohio interstate has been sentenced to receive the death penalty.

A judge in southwest Ohio's Warren County sentenced Brookport, Illinois, resident Terry Froman on Thursday. 

The judge followed the recommendation of jurors who this month found Froman guilty of aggravated murder and kidnapping in the September 2014 slaying of Kimberly Thomas.

A message left at Froman's attorney's office hasn't been returned.

Froman's attorney said during the trial evidence would show "mitigating factors."

Prosecutors say Froman became vengeful when Thomas ordered him out of her Mayfield, Kentucky, home. They say Froman abducted Thomas from Kentucky after fatally shooting Thomas' 17-year-old son, Michael E. Mohney.

Froman faces charges in Kentucky for Mohney's death.

Source: Associated Press, June 23, 2017

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Judge Accepts Sweeping Reforms of Arizona Death Penalty Protocols

Arizona's death chamber
Arizona's death chamber
A U.S. judge accepted on Thursday major revisions to Arizona's death penalty procedures, such as eliminating paralytic drugs in lethal injections and giving witnesses more access to watch prisoners inside the death chamber, a lawyer for the death row inmates said.

The changes were part of a settlement reached in a 2014 lawsuit brought by seven death row inmates who argued Arizona's lethal injection practices were experimental, secretive and caused inmates prolonged suffering.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake in Phoenix signed an order that in effect authorized a deal reached between the state and the lawyers for death row inmates, according to Dale Baich, a lawyer for the death row litigants.

The agreement was announced last week in federal court in Phoenix.

The deal marked the first time a state had agreed to such major changes in its drug protocol and execution procedures because of prisoners' complaints, Baich said.

Representatives for Arizona's attorney general and Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Lawyers for the inmates called on the state to drop the use of paralytic agents used to halt breathing, arguing the chemicals hid signs of consciousness and suffering during executions.

The state also agreed to limit the authority of the director of the department of corrections to change execution drugs, and allow a prisoner time to challenge any drug changes, Baich said.

States have been scrambling to find chemicals for lethal injection mixes after U.S. and European pharmaceutical makers placed a sales ban in recent years on drugs for executions because of ethical concerns.

In December, Arizona also agreed in the same case to stop using the valium-like sedative midazolam, or related products.

Midazolam has been used in troubled executions in Arizona, Alabama, Ohio and Oklahoma. In some instances, witnesses said convicted murderers twisted on gurneys before dying.

It also was used along with a narcotic in Arizona's last execution - that of murderer Joseph Wood in 2014. Wood was seen gasping for air during a nearly two-hour procedure in which he received 15 rounds of drug injections. Lethal injections typically result in death in a matter of minutes.

Arizona also agreed under the settlement to allow greater transparency by letting witnesses view more of the execution process, including the moment the executioner administers the drugs intravenously, Baich said.

Source: Reuters, June 23, 2017


Federal judge lifts stay on Arizona executions


Almost three years after a death-row prisoner agonized on a gurney for nearly two hours during a botched execution, Arizona can legally resume executions — if the state Department of Corrections can find the drugs to do so.

On Thursday, a U.S. District Court judge in Phoenix lifted a stay imposed in November 2014, four months after executioners hired by the Corrections Department injected 15 doses of a drug cocktail into convicted murderer Joseph Wood.

One dose was supposed to kill him, but instead, Wood snorted and gasped as witnesses watched and attorneys argued in a telephone call to the judge about whether to stop the execution.

Judge Neil Wake, who had presided over years of litigation over execution protocols, ordered the Corrections Department to investigate the flawed execution and litigate its execution protocol with attorneys representing other death-row inmates.

Wake shut down executions until such time as the case was settled or adjudicated.

On Thursday, the Corrections Department and the state of Arizona signed off on a settlement agreement with the prisoners' attorneys. Wake terminated the case and lifted the stay.

Among its conditions, Corrections agreed not to use the drug combination employed in the Wood execution.

Instead, it rewrote its protocol to specify two fast-acting barbiturates, sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, in single-drug injections.

But neither drug is readily available to states. Thiopental, which was used in executions over four decades, is no longer made in the United States and cannot be legally imported. Pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell pentobarbital for executions, though it can be custom-made by compounding pharmacies.

Corrections Department officials did not immediately respond to questions about whether they had access to the drugs, but on June 12, an assistant Arizona attorney general told Wake the state did not possess either.

Other terms of the settlement require that the new execution protocol:

  • Take away Corrections Director Charles Ryan's authority to make last-minute drug changes or discretionary decisions, such as closing curtains into the execution chamber, if things go wrong.
  • Eliminate a traditional three-drug combination that defense attorneys believe merely masks any sign of pain or distress and replace it with the two single-drug options.
  • Remove a clause saying that defense attorneys may obtain their own drugs for their clients' executions if they pass quality standards. Execution drugs, for the most part, are controlled substances that are only available to people or entities licensed to obtain them.
"The state finally recognized what we have been saying for the last 10 years," said Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defenders Office in Phoenix. "The Department of Corrections overhauled the protocol and removed what we have long said are unconstitutional provisions ... The department also apparently concedes that the director's unfettered discretion posed unconstitutional risks to prisoners facing execution.

"The Department of Corrections will be more accountable and there will be greater transparency during the execution process," Baich said.

Early on in the litigation, Wake dismissed First Amendment claims from the prisoners requesting more transparency in execution procedures. Baich said the prisoners will appeal that dismissal.

Some of those claims have been addressed in a second lawsuit before a different judge, lodged by a coalition of media outlets. That judge has already ruled that Corrections must allow witnesses, including from the media, watch by closed-circuit TV as the condemned prisoners are strapped to the gurney and must provide a live-camera view of the control board used to inject the chemicals.

But issues remain as to the quality of drugs and the qualifications of the executioners, and the media case is scheduled for trial in late July before U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow.

Source: The Republic | azcentral.com, Michael Kiefer, June 22, 2017

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Lawyers contest constitutionality of Nebraska death penalty

Attorneys for an inmate accused of strangling his cellmate have asked a judge to declare Nebraska's death penalty unconstitutional.

Concerns over the recently reinstated capital punishment that was repealed in 2015 are among the 11 arguments in a motion filed Monday by Todd Lancaster and Sarah Newell, attorneys for Patrick Schroeder.

The move prompted a delay in Schroeder's arraignment that was set for Tuesday. Instead, District Judge Vicky Johnson scheduled a July 28 hearing on Schroeder's motion.

"Our society can no longer kill to show that killing is wrong," the motion stated.

Schroeder has been serving a life sentence for murder but now also faces a potential death sentence for allegedly choking cellmate Terry Berry Jr. to death in April at the Tecumseh State Prison.

Lancaster said the state's death penalty is racially and geographically discriminatory. He alleged that of the 9 men sent to death row in Nebraska since 2002, only one was white. The rest were black or Hispanic.

Nebraska's capital punishment law was repealed in 2015 but recently reinstated by voters. In an effort to create a viable death penalty (sic) procedure in the wake of that vote, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services changed the lethal injection protocol earlier this year.

Under the former protocol, inmates on death row were given lethal injections of 3 substances in a specific order. The new protocol gives the prisons director more authority in deciding the types and quantities of drugs to be used.

Lancaster said the decision to seek the death penalty is arbitrary because it's left to individual county attorneys.

"The decision to file aggravating circumstances can be affected by the legal experience of the prosecutor, the size and resources of the particular county, any prejudice or bias of the prosecutor, the political ambition of the prosecutor or other political circumstances," the motion stated.

Source: Associated Press, June 23, 2017

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Indian Man on Death Row in Pakistan Seeks Clemency From Army Chief

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — An Indian man on death row in Pakistan after a military court sentenced him on charges of espionage, sabotage and terrorism has appealed to the country's army chief for clemency.

India had earlier appealed to the International Court of Justice, the highest legal body under the United Nations, in the case of Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav. India said Pakistan had sentenced an innocent Indian citizen without granting him diplomatic access, which is in violation of an international treaty.

The court ordered Pakistan last month to delay Jadhav's execution until the final verdict.

Pakistan says Jadhav confessed to being an Indian spy working to disrupt the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a network of railways and roads that is part of the larger One Belt One Road Initiative launched by China.

In a 10-minute video released by the military, the second of its kind, Jadhav said his activities were designed to support separatist groups in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province to "raise the level of insurgency."

A news release by the Pakistan military's public relations wing said Jadhav had "expressed remorse" over lives lost and damage caused by his actions and asked for mercy on "compassionate grounds."

According to authorities, Jadhav claimed to have had a hand in sectarian violence, targeting Shi'ite Muslims, that had plagued Pakistan for a while.

Center of conflict


Balochistan has long been the center of a conflict between separatist insurgents and Pakistan's military. It is also along the route of China's planned economic corridor, which involves an investment of upward of $50 billion. The success of the project depends upon securing the routes.

Tensions between India and neighboring Pakistan, both nuclear-armed countries, have been high since a heavily armed group attacked an Indian air force base in Pathankot early last year. India blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attack.

The two sides have also been exchanging intermittent fire along the Line of Control, the de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region.

Source: VOA, Ayesha Tanzeem, June 22, 2017

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Iran: 2 Hanged on Drug Charges, 17 at Imminent Risk of Execution

Public execution in Iran
Around the end of May, 2 prisoners were reportedly hanged on drug related charges - 1 at Maragheh Prison (East Azerbaijan province) and the other at Minab Prison (Hormozgan province).

According to close sources, the execution in Maragheh Prison was carried out on Friday May 26. The prisoner has been identified as Fakhroldin Roshani. Mr. Roshani was reportedly arrested in 2012 at the age of 34. The execution in Minab Prison was reportedly carried out on Saturday May 27. The prisoner has been identified as Afshar Beiglou, 21 years of age.

A source who asked to be annonymous told Iran Human Rights: Afshar was a driver of a moving truck. In 2010, when he was delivering furniture from Urmia to Minab, approximately 2 kilograms and 700 grams of opium and crystal meth were planted in his truck. He never confessed at any point and always insisted that he was innocent. Nonetheless, in 2011, he was sentenced to death by a court in Minab and was executed on the 1st day of Ramadan."

Iranian official sources, including the media and Judiciary, have not announced these 2 executions.

Iranian parliament members had formerly requested from the Judiciary to stop drug related executions for at least 5,000 prisoners pending further investigation. However, the request has not stopped the Judiciary from carrying out death sentences for prisoners with drug related charges.

110 Death Row Prisoners in Zanjan Prison / 17 in Imminent Danger of Execution


Approximately half of the prisoners in Zanjan Prison are held on drug related charges. 

There are about 2,500 prisoners in Zanjan Prison, and about 110 of them are sentenced to death. 

This prison has a ward for juvenile offenders, and among the prisoners in this ward are 11 teenagers under the age of 18.

Among the 110 death row prisoners, at least 17 of them have had their death sentences confirmed by Iran's Supreme Court and sent for implementation.

A close source tells Iran Human Rights: "It is highly likely that the execution sentences of these 17 prisoners will be carried out right after Ramadan."

The identities of the 17 prisoners:

1) Hamza Rahimpour, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2014.

2) Najaf Sidi, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2011.

3) Mohammad Ali Yari, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2013.

4) Bahman Pirouzi, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2014.

5) Jamshid Allah Verdi, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2011.

6) Jalil Dadyarvand, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2012.

7) Mostafa Hassanzadeh, sentenced to death on murder charges, arrested in 2010.

8) Ali Kashefi, sentenced to death on murder charges, arrested in 2011.

9) Abbas Savaghi, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2015.

10) Mohammad Feyzabadi, sentenced to death on drug related charges, arrested in 2014.

11) Hossein Ali Mahdavi, sentenced to death on murder charges, arrested in 2011.

12) Yassin Abedi, sentenced to death on murder charges, arrested in 2011.

There are 5 Afghan citizens who are in imminent danger of execution. These 5 prisoners have been detained for the past 6 years.

Source: Iran Human Rights, June 22, 2017

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Chinese courts call for death penalty for researchers who commit fraud

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth — a life for a lab book?

In the past few months, China has announced two new crackdowns on research misconduct — one of which could lead to executions for scientists who doctor their data.

Scientists have been sounding alarms for years about the integrity of research in China. One recent survey estimated that 40 percent of biomedical papers by Chinese scholars were tainted by misconduct. Funding bodies there have in the past announced efforts to crack down on fraud, including clawing back money from scientists who cheat on their grants.

This month, in the wake of a fake peer review scandal that claimed 107 papers by Chinese scholars, the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology proclaimed a “no tolerance” policy for research misconduct — although it’s not clear what that might look like. According to the Financial Times, the ministry said the mass retractions “seriously harmed the international reputation of our country’s scientific research and the dignity of Chinese scientists at large.”

But a prior court decision in the country threatened the equivalent of the nuclear option. In April courts approved a new policy calling for stiff prison sentences for researchers who fabricate data in studies that lead to drug approvals. If the misconduct ends up harming people, then the punishment on the table even includes the death penalty. The move, as Nature explained, groups clinical trial data fraud with counterfeiting so that “if the approved drug causes health problems, it can result in a 10-year prison term or the death penalty, in the case of severe or fatal consequences.”

We’ve long called for sterner treatment of science cheats, including the possibility of jail time — which, by the way, most Americans agree is appropriate. But we can’t support the Chinese solution. Even if we didn’t abhor the death penalty (which we do), the punishment here far outweighs the crime.

Yet if extremity in the name of virtue can be vice, it serves as reminder that science fraud is, simply put, fraud. And when it involves funding — taxpayer or otherwise — that fraud becomes theft. Think about it the same way as you would running a bogus investment fund or kiting checks. So, jail for major offenders — yes. Execution — no.

One objection to our position here might be that financial criminals typically don’t kill anyone — directly, at least. If you drain my bank account or steal my 401(k), I’m still alive. A scientist who cheats on a drug study could, at least in theory, jeopardize the health of the people who take that medication, with potentially fatal consequences.

But the reality is quite different. In the United States, at least, drug approvals hinge on data generated from many scientists or groups of researchers. They never rest on a single person. So unless everyone involved in a study is cheating, a fraudster’s data would stick out if they strayed too much from the aggregate. Ironically, then, to succeed, a would-be fraudster would be most successful if they made their bogus results look like everyone else’s — thus diluting their influence on the outcome of the trial.

And stopping short of capital punishment, jail time for fraud would itself be a big change. According to our own research, only 39 scientists worldwide between 1975 and 2015 received criminal penalties for misdeeds somehow related to their work. However, some of those cases didn’t involve research directly but instead related to incidental infractions, such as misusing funds, bribery, and even murder facilitated by access to cyanide

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Source: statnews.com, ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus, June 23, 2017


Shanghai: Female drug trafficker gets suspended death sentence


A woman has been sentenced to death - with a 2-year reprieve - for selling and transporting drugs.

Shanghai No.3 Intermediate People's Court said yesterday that the woman, a 26-year-old mother of 2 children, had previously been sentenced to prison for the same crime but had avoided serving out her terms.

From June 1 last year, the woman surnamed Zhang, a native of Anhui Province, sold 400 grams of crystal meth to a man surnamed Chen and bought about 2,000 grams from another man surnamed Li.

Li was sentenced to life, while Chen was sentenced for his involvement in another case.

According to China's Criminal Law, smuggling, selling, transporting and producing drugs amounting to over 50 grams of heroin or crystal meth face a life sentence or the death penalty.

In another case, a woman who is an Indonesian citizen, was sentenced to life for smuggling about 1,500 grams of cocaine into China, the court said.

She arrived at Pudong airport from Cambodia on May 4 last year with a backpack, and an X-ray machine detected a suspicious substance in the backpack, later confirmed to be cocaine.

The woman had previously traveled between China, Vietnam and Cambodia on several occasions, transporting drugs for others in exchange for thousands of dollars in return, the court said.

In the past 12 months, the court has closed 13 drug cases and handed down sentences to 19 people with 15 of them sentenced to at least 5 years in prison.

Source: Shanghai Daily, June 22, 2017

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Civilized, Constitution-Loving Californians Will Continue Capital Punishment Fight

California's death chamber
California's death chamber
The biggest lie about Proposition (“Prop”) 66, California’s poorly drafted new death penalty law – only missing another “6” in numbering to be properly identified as the devil’s spawn – is speed.

Pro-death penalty zealots, special interest groups, and prosecutors hell-bent on political gain – including a prosecutor accused of lying under oath during a murder prosecution, another profiled by the BBC because of his infatuation with the death penalty, and of course, Mark Peterson, the Contra Costa district attorney forced to resign this month after pleading no contest to felony perjury – promised voters that under Prop 66, death row inmates would have just five years to appeal their convictions.

“Hogwash,” I wrote, and still maintain; “Prop 66 won’t fool Californians.” Because, as many of our regretful, “woke” citizens are realizing post-election, unlike carpenter James Wilson Marshall’s historic discovery of gold at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1848, Prop 66’s promised turbo-charging of California’s machinery of death is twenty-four carat “fool’s gold.”

But this is not strictly an “I told you so” column despite the fact that several judges on California’s highest court recently indicated that they too believe Prop 66 usurps the judiciary’s authority to decide the complex, life and death issues at stake in death penalty litigation. And there’s no need to rehash the indisputable truth that: there are not enough willing and qualified death penalty lawyers in California – and they don’t grow on trees; Prop 66, and the death penalty generally, exact a horribly inhumane and unjust toll on the children of the condemned; Prop 66’s death penalty deterrence argument is pure shibboleth; unacceptable racial bias persists in capital punishment as illustrated by the environmental disaster in Flint, Michigan; Prop 62, the opposing ballot initiative that would have ended capital punishment forever in our state, appeals to the better nature of our angels and could have marked the progress of a maturing society for conscientious Californians; or, finally, that California could have tipped the balance in the national debate on the death penalty.

Instead, this column affirms that despite last fall’s bamboozled vote approving Prop 66 by the barest margin, on human rights, California is still better than Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, and Texas! We understand executions are hardly an exact science. That’s a major reason they’ve been stalled so long in the Golden State. And it’s also why, in addition to the substantive legal challenges jeopardizing Prop 66, they’re not slated to start again anytime soon.

Californians simply aren’t quick to torture citizens to death and cover it up – like in North Korea or in other parts of the United States even. Yup, that’s right, I’m talking about you Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Arizona, and you abominable others too (as alluded to above, when it comes to the death penalty, as with mostly everything else, “don’t mess with Texas!”).

Civilized, peaceful, fiscally savvy, state and federal constitution-loving Californians know we can’t afford 18 executions all at once, which is, at a minimum, the number of inmates out of appeals and immediately eligible to be put to death. Californians don’t want our courts paralyzed and rendered completely dysfunctional due to Prop 66 and the emotionally draining, morally bankrupt, money-sucking demands necessitated by the death penalty. Rather, we need every scarce resource available to fund the entirety of California’s justice system – civil, criminal, administrative, etcetera – not to mention our state government, our health care system, our school system, and many other things affecting large swaths of the population.

In fact, here in California, we need every penny of the millions of dollars we routinely chuck out chasing lethal vengeance. We need that money, manpower, and precious moral credibility that is lost through state-sanctioned murder. We need it to invest in our children, our fragile economy, and our threatened environment.

It’s long past time we ended capital punishment in California. We should have done it on November 8, but we can’t give up the fight. For as the incomparable civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., counseled, “the time is always right to do what is right.”


Source: Counter Punch, Stephen Cooper, June 22, 2017. The author is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California. Join the debate on Facebook More articles by:STEPHEN COOPER.

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Mumbai 1993 blasts: Abu Salem to escape noose

Abu Salem
Abu Salem
Salem cannot get a death term or any jail-term over 25 years as per the terms of his extradition agreed upon by India and Portugal.

Mumbai: A special TADA court convicted extradited gangster Abu Salem for his alleged role in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts on Friday, on charges including murder. 

However, Salem cannot get a death term or any jail-term over 25 years as per the terms of his extradition agreed upon by India and Portugal.

CBI’s lawyer Deepak Salvi said, “Due to the extradition terms, wherein Salem cannot be punished with death, we will request the court to give him life-term, instead of death penalty, even though he deserved death penalty.” 

Another CBI source said, “Salem’s extradition, which was made on the basis of the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings of which India and Portugal are signatories, included a few key conditions — if extradited for trial in India, he would neither be conferred with death penalty nor be subjected to imprisonment for a term beyond 25 years.

According to Advocate Sujay Kantawala, the awarding of death penalty to 1993 blast accused Abu Salem would not be violating the extradition treaty signed by India as the crime by Salem was “a crime against humanity and involved terrorist activity” and so giving him the death penalty would not violate any extradition treaty.

Source: The Asian Age, June 21/22, 2017

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Death sentence for fatal car explosion suspect in Bahrain

Manama
The court sentenced a second suspect to life in prison for his role in the explosion that shocked the nation

Manama: A court in Bahrain on Monday sentenced to death a defendant accused of planting a bomb that killed a Bahraini woman and injured three children in June last year.

The court sentenced a second suspect to life in prison for his role in the explosion that shocked the nation.

The woman was killed and the children were injured when their car was hit by a bomb blast in East Eker, south of the capital Manama.

“A terrorist act claimed the life of a woman and injured three children who were with her in a car that was hit by shrapnel after a bomb exploded,” the director general of Manama’s police directorate said.

Ahmad Al Hammadi, the head of the anti-terrorism public prosecution, on Monday said that 10 suspects were involved in the case.

The investigation launched immediately after the attack led to the identification of a suspect currently a fugitive in Iran and working for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard who tasked the two defendants with carrying out an explosion attack against police patrols.

The two agreed, obtained the explosive device from the fugitive and planted on the road side.

However, they exploded it as a private car was passing by, resulting in the death of the woman and the injuries of the children accompanying her.

The two perpetrators were eventually identified and arrested, Al Hammadi said.

They can challenge the verdict by taking the case to the Court of Appeals and eventually to the Court of Cassation, he added.

Source: Gulf News, June 19, 2017

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Nebraska inmate facing death penalty files motion contesting its constitutionality

Patrick Schroeder
Patrick Schroeder
TECUMSEH, Neb. — A recent change in lethal injection procedure intended to enable Nebraska to carry out executions has been challenged by an inmate facing a potential death sentence.

Concerns over the new drug protocol are among the 11 arguments in a motion filed this week by attorneys for Patrick Schroeder, who seeks to have Nebraska’s death penalty law declared unconstitutional.

Schroeder, who is already serving a life sentence for murder, now faces the death penalty for allegedly choking to death his cellmate, Terry Berry Jr., on April 15 inside a special management unit cell at the Tecumseh State Prison.

He was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Johnson County District Court and enter a plea.

Instead, District Judge Vicky Johnson scheduled a July 28 hearing on Schroeder’s motion to overturn the death penalty.

“Our society can no longer kill to show that killing is wrong,” stated the motion to quash, filed by defense attorneys Todd Lancaster and Sarah Newell with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy.

Johnson County Attorney Rick Smith, who is prosecuting the case with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, declined to comment.

“We will argue it at the hearing,” he said.

Among issues raised by Schroeder in the 32-page motion:

  • The death penalty in Nebraska is racially discriminatory, considering that only one of the nine men sent to death row since the law was amended in 2002 is white. Five are Hispanic and three are black.
  • The death penalty is applied unevenly based upon geography. Since 2002, all death penalty cases have originated in four of Nebraska’s 93 counties: Douglas, Madison, Scotts Bluff and Hall.
  • Nebraska’s death penalty procedure requires juries to decide the aggravating factors necessary to impose death, but it requires a three-judge panel to weigh the mitigating factors in a defendant’s favor. Such a two-step process that limits the jury’s role is similar to one used in Florida that was found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016.
  • Evolving standards of decency in a “mature society” have made the carrying out of executions increasingly rare in the U.S. Just 10 states are responsible for 83 percent of the 1,442 executions since 1976, the motion stated. Last year, the 20 total executions carried out were in five of the 31 states with capital punishment. Nebraska has not executed an inmate since 1997, when the method was the electric chair.
  • The highest courts in the states and the nation have previously banned the execution of juveniles, the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled. They also have prohibited methods once commonly used as cruel and unusual punishment.


“The rejection of the nooses, bullets, gas and electricity signaled not only the discomfort with the method of execution, but with the death penalty itself,” the motion stated.

Though Schroeder has not been convicted of the prison homicide, let alone sentenced, the motion was filed at this early stage to properly preserve the issues for appeal.

The death penalty challenge comes several months after voters reinstated capital punishment. More than 60 percent of those who cast ballots in November voted to reverse the Legislature’s repeal of the death penalty in 2015.

In an effort to create a viable death penalty procedure in the wake of that vote, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services changed the lethal injection protocol earlier this year. That change is under attack by Schroeder.

Under the former protocol, inmates were to be put to death with injections of three substances in a specific order. But obtaining some of the drugs specified in the protocol became increasingly difficult for prison officials.

The new protocol gives the prisons director wide latitude in deciding the types and quantities of drugs to be used. He also may opt to use a single drug, as long as it first causes the inmate to lose consciousness.

Schroeder’s motion argues that the Legislature has unlawfully delegated its lawmaking authority to the prisons director to decide what drugs to use.

The motion also challenges the death penalty statutes for giving too little guidance as to when the penalty should be sought and applied. As a result, individual county attorneys decide who will be put to death in a manner that is “arbitrary and capricious” in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

“The decision to file aggravating circumstances can be affected by the legal experience of the prosecutor, the size and resources of the particular county, any prejudice or bias of the prosecutor, the political ambition of the prosecutor or other political circumstances,” the motion stated.

Source: Omaha World Herald, Paul Hammel / World-Herald Bureau, June 21, 2017

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U.S.: Why plummeting public support for the death penalty doesn't mean it's going away

Texas' death chamber
Support for the death penalty is at a 4-decade low among the American public, but that may be of little consequence in the struggle over the future of capital punishment. That's because the death penalty is the practice not of the nation, but rather of a handful of states.

The federal government is a minor player in criminal justice, housing just 1 in 8 inmates. The federal government executed 2 prisoners on the same day in 1957, but implemented capital punishment only four times in the 60 years since. It's states that charge and sentence almost all the individuals who commit the crimes that lead to capital sentences (e.g., murder). And, more specifically, it's just 5 of those states that are the true force behind capital punishment, accounting for 90 % of the 122 executions carried out in the past 3 years.

Texas stands out for its particularly outsized role, accounting for over 1/3 of capital punishment. Florida, Georgia and Missouri each account for about 1 in 7 executions, and Oklahoma accounts for about 1 in 12. The other 45 states collectively account for only 10 % of prisoner executions, even though the law in 30 of those states allows capital punishment.

Rather than ask "why does the United States have capital punishment," it makes more sense to ask why these particular 5 states apply it so often. Obviously, all are politically conservative states within or bordering the South. But this is also true of Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee, none of which has put a prisoner to death in recent years (indeed, Louisiana came close to abolishing the death penalty in this year's legislative cycle.)

Stanford Law School Professor Robert Weisberg points to state-specific processes and incentives as drivers of the death penalty in a subset of conservative states. Most notably, he says, "Texas has elected judges. It is also located in the prosecutor-friendly 5th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals. Although the Supreme Court occasionally slaps down the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and its federal accomplice, the Fifth Circuit, for allowing egregiously unfair capital trials, on the whole those lower courts have been happy to give Texas prosecutors a generously wide berth."

Most states have abandoned the death penalty de jure or de facto. But in the absence of change in the handful of states that combine punitive views on crime with legal processes that facilitate capital punishment, the practice will remain a part of the criminal justice system.

Source: The Washington Post, Opinion, June 21, 2017. Keith Humphreys is a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and is an affiliated faculty member at Stanford Law School and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute.

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Alabama Death-Row Inmate Wins High Court Battle Over Mental Health Experts

A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that an Alabama death-row inmate was denied his constitutional right to an independent mental health expert to help the defense team in his murder trial.

James Edmund McWilliams Jr. challenges his death sentence for robbing, raping and killing convenience store clerk Patricia Reynolds in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 1984.

Months before he murdered Reynolds, McWilliams attended couple's therapy with his pregnant wife and underwent psychological testing, which found that he is "extremely disturbed" and "has much internal anxiety."

While three doctors nevertheless concluded he was competent to stand trial, his defense counsel portrayed McWilliams during the penalty phase of his trial as someone who grew up with significant psychological problems. McWilliams and his mother testified that he sustained head injuries as a child and had a history of blacking out and hallucinating.

An expert appointed by the trial judge reported his findings simultaneously to the court, the prosecution and the defense 2 days before McWilliams' sentencing hearing.

The expert diagnosed McWilliams with organic personality syndrome, but defense counsel did not have a chance to discuss the findings with the expert or learn what the diagnosis meant for the purposes of mitigation.

Last year, McWilliams petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, arguing he was "precluded from meaningfully participating in the judicial sentencing hearing and did not receive a fair opportunity to rebut the state's psychiatric experts."

His case is nested inside the high court's 1984 decision in Ake v. Oklahoma, which held that poor criminal defendants using a defense of insanity are entitled to an expert to help support their claim.

McWilliams was charged by Alabama just a month after Ake was decided. His appeals over the years have been unsuccessful, with the 11th Circuit affirming the lower courts' denial of relief.

5 months after agreeing to take up the case, the Supreme Court reversed the 11th Circuit and ruled 5-4 Monday that McWilliams did not receive the assistance he was entitled to under Ake.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, said that Ake does not require just an examination, but also requires the state to provide the defense access to a competent psychiatrist who will also help in evaluation, preparation and presentation.

"We are willing to assume that Alabama met the examination portion of this requirement by providing for Dr. [John] Goff's examination of McWilliams. But what about the other 3 parts?" Breyer wrote. "The dissent emphasizes that Dr. Goff was never ordered to do any of these things by the trial court. But that is precisely the point. The relevant court order did not ask Dr. Goff or anyone else to provide the defense with help in evaluating, preparing, and presenting its case."

McWilliams' requests for additional assistance under Ake were rejected by the judge in his case, according to the ruling.

"Since Alabama's provision of mental health assistance fell so dramatically short of what Ake requires, we must conclude that the Alabama court decision affirming McWilliams's conviction and sentence was 'contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law,'" Breyer said.

The Supreme Court said the 11th Circuit should determine on remand "whether access to the type of meaningful assistance in evaluating, preparing, and presenting the defense that Ake requires could have made a difference" in McWilliams' trial.

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonio Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Breyer in the majority.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

Alito said Ake "did not clearly establish that a defendant is entitled to an expert who is a member of the defense team."

"In Ake, we held that a defendant must be provided 'access to a competent psychiatrist' in 2 circumstances: 1st, 'when [the] defendant demonstrates to the trial judge that his sanity at the time of the offense is to be a significant factor at trial,' and, 2nd, at the sentencing phase of a capital trial, 'when the State presents psychiatric evidence of the defendant's future dangerousness,'" Alito wrote.

"The question that we agreed to review concerns the type of expert that must be provided. Did Ake clearly establish that a defendant in the 2 situations just noted must be provided with the services of an expert who functions solely as a dedicated member of the defense team as opposed to a neutral expert who examines the defendant, reports his or her conclusions to the court and the parties, and is available to assist and testify for both sides? Did Ake speak with such clarity that it ruled out 'any possibility for fairminded disagreement'? The answer is 'no.' Ake provides no clear guidance one way or the other."

Source: courthousenews.com, June 21, 2017


Supreme Court ruling in capital case mandates psychiatric assistance for indigent defendants


US Supreme Court
The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Monday in favor of a man who has been sentenced to death in Alabama, holding that he had not received "the psychiatric examination and assistance necessary to prepare an effective defense based on his mental condition" as required after the 1985 case Ake v. Oklahoma. James McWilliams was convicted of raping and killing a convenience store clerk in 1984. At trial, the defense counsel repeatedly moved to continue the court proceedings so they could have an "expert" evaluate McWilliams' psychiatric report. The judge denied the requests, telling the defense they could have until 2 p.m. on the day of sentencing to look over the report, which the defense had only acquired 2 days earlier. The judge, taking the position that McWilliams was faking and exaggerating his mental illness, sentenced him to death.

Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out that the precedent set in Ake goes beyond simply examining an indigent defendant, but also requires assistance:

We are willing to assume that Alabama met the examination portion of this requirement by providing for Dr. Goff's examination of McWilliams. But what about the other 3 parts? Neither Dr. Goff nor any other expert helped the defense evaluate Goff's report or McWilliams' extensive medical records and translate these data into a legal strategy. Neither Dr. Goff nor any other expert helped the defense prepare and present arguments that might, for example, have explained that McWilliams' purported malingering was not necessarily inconsistent with mental illness. Neither Dr. Goff nor any other expert helped the defense prepare direct or cross-examination of any witnesses, or testified at the judicial sentencing hearing himself.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, issued a strongly-worded dissent, claiming the Ake decision was intentionally ambiguous, and that more deference should have been granted to Alabama's Supreme Court ruling.

The death penalty continues to be a point of contention across the US. Earlier this month the Supreme Court lifted the stay of execution granted by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit for Robert Melson, who challenged the use of midazolam in the 3-drug cocktail used in Alabama executions, arguing that it does not properly insensate prisoners to the pain of lethal injection. In May the Delaware House of Representatives passed a bill that would reinstate the death penalty. In April the Texas Department of Criminal Justice sued the Food and Drug Administration for banning a shipment of lethal injection drugs to prison officials. Earlier in April Amnesty International released an annual report revealing the US to not be among the world's top 5 executioners since 2006. However, in March the Mississippi house approved a bill allowing firing squad executions. In March, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a new bill which stated that the death penalty may only be imposed by a judge upon unanimous recommendation from the jury. In January Ohio's lethal injection protocol was deemed unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.

Source: jurist.org, June 21, 2017

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