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Showing posts from May, 2012

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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Bali drug arrest a set-up: Briton

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A British man arrested over a £1.6 million cocaine haul in Indonesia has insisted he was set up as he went to pick up a birthday present for his daughter.
Julian Ponder and Rachel Dougall, believed to be partners, are being held in Bali alongside fellow Briton Paul Beales, the Foreign Office has confirmed.
Ms Dougall could receive the death penalty for the alleged smuggling operation - leaving behind her little girl, Kitty, who is reportedly in the care of the couple's maid and gardener on the island. Ms Dougall insisted she was the victim of a "fit-up" and Mr Ponder has told ITV News he was "trapped".
The pair were arrested in a sting operation after British housewife Lindsay Sandiford, 55, was allegedly caught with 4.8kg of cocaine stuffed in the lining of a suitcase as she arrived in Bali. She agreed to take part in the sting in which police swooped on four other suspects after her arrest last week - the three other Britons and an Indian man.
Ms Dougall and…

Indonesia: Paying high drugs price

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A SOUTH African was sentenced to life in prison this week after being arrested with R3.5 million worth of tik in Bali last year.
Brett Savage, 44, evaded the death penalty but will spend the rest of his life in jail in Bali.
His mother, Myra Savage from Townsview, Joburg, said last night the family was still taking in the news, as they had been told to expect a lesser sentence. But she said they were devastated at the thought that they would never see him again, as they could not afford the airfare to Bali.
Savage was arrested on October 19 carrying just under 3kg of crystal methamphetamine (tik). Customs officials had reportedly noticed an unusual item in his luggage during a routine X-ray and found the drugs in a suitcase.
He is the second South African this month to be sentenced for drug trafficking in Bali. Last Monday, the Denpasar District Court sentenced 38-year-old Sheilla Motsweneng to 15 years in prison for trafficking 2.5kg of tik.
She was arrested days after Savage was at…

Malaysia pardons three Filipinos on death row

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May 30, 2012: The Malaysian government has pardoned three overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on death row in Sabah.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is in the Indonesian capital of Kuala Lumpur, said on May 30 the three OFWs have been spared the death penalty in Sabah.
The Philippine Embassy in Malaysia identified the three as Basir Omar, Jaliman Salleh and Aldipal Hadani.
In his talk with Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman on May 29, Binay, Presidential Adviser on OFW concerns, thanked the Malaysian government for granting the pardons.
“We sincerely appreciate the grant of pardon and see it as further validation of the strong ties between the Philippines and Malaysia,” he said.
In January, this year, Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J. Eduardo Malaya called on Sabah Governor and Pardons Board chairman Tun Datuk Seri Panglima, and requested for his intervention to commute the death sentences of six Filipinos, including the three.
The Pardons Board handed down on May 22 …

URGENT APPEAL to the Palestinian Authority for 4 men facing execution

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At least four men from Gaza City are facing execution in the Gaza Strip. One of them, Na'el Jamal Qandil Doghmosh, was sentenced to death after, according to his family, he was tortured to make him "confess" to a murder.
Na'el Jamal Qandil Doghmosh could be executed at any time, by hanging. Sentenced to death for murder in April 2011, his final appeal was rejected by the Court of Cassation on 13 May 2012. According to his family, he "confessed" under torture by police investigators after he was arrested on 9 May 2010, aged 18. When his family was first able to visit him two months later, his nails had been torn out and he had burns and bruises on his body.
According to the local human rights NGO Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), another man, known only as F.T.W., also faces execution by hanging for murder. His sentence was confirmed on 21 May by the Court of Cassation. Thirty-eight-year-old J.Z.J. may also be executed at any time, by firing squa…

URGENT APPEAL for Ronald Smith, Canadian man on Montana's death row

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The Montana parole board has voted against clemency for Ronald Smith, a Canadian man on the state's death row for a double murder committed 30 years ago. This vote is not binding on the Governor of Montana, who can still commute the death sentence.
In a letter to Governor Brian Schweitzer on 21 May, the Board of Pardons and Parole advised that, following a clemency hearing on 2 May, the Board had voted against recommending clemency for Ronald Smith. The letter said that "justice is best served for the majority of citizens of the State of Montana" by such a recommendation.
Ronald Smith and Rodney Munro were charged with the capital murder of Harvey Madman Jr. and Thomas Running Rabbit Jr., two Native American men shot dead on 4 August 1982. Ronald Munro accepted a plea bargain, pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping, was sentenced to 60 years in prison, and was released in 1998. The prosecutor offered Ronald Smith a similar deal – if he pled guilty to murder he would n…

URGENT APPEAL for Lebanese man with history of mental illness due to be executed in Ohio on 6 June

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A Lebanese national with a history of mental illness is due to be executed in the US state of Ohio on 6 June for a double murder committed in 1992. The parole board has recommended to the governor that he deny clemency; he is not bound by their decision.
Abdul Hamin Awkal, who arrived in the USA at the age of 24 in 1984 from Lebanon, was sentenced to death for the murder in 1992 of his wife Latife Awkal, who was seeking a divorce from him, and her brother Mahmoud Abdul-Aziz. The two were shot dead in the Family Conciliation Services Department of a Domestic Relations Court in Cleveland, Ohio, on 7 January 1992. Abdul Awkal was arrested in the courthouse after the shooting. In pre-trial custody Abdul Awkal was prescribed anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications. The trial judge found that the severity of his depression rendered him incapable of assisting in his defense and that he was therefore not competent to stand trial. Abdul Awkal was held in a psychiatric facility where h…

More than 640 ‘witches’ lynched in Tanzania last year

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DODOMA, TANZANIA (BNO NEWS) -- More than 640 people suspected of witchcraft were lynched in Tanzania last year, a leading local rights group said on Tuesday, expressing concern about the growing trend of killings. More than 3,000 people have been killed in similar incidents since 2005.
In its annual human rights report, the Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC) said police statistics in the African nation show that at least 642 people suspected of witchcraft were killed between January and November 2011, a significant increase from the at least 579 witchcraft-related deaths in 2010.
"Thousands of people lose their lives in Tanzania because they are suspected of engaging in witchcraft," the center said in its report, adding that many killings occur in the northern regions of Mwanza and Shinyanga. "Between 2005 and 2011, about 3,000 people were lynched to death by fearful neighbors who believed them to be witches."
This makes for an average of 500 witchcraft-related …

Japan: Lay judges torn by death penalty

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The mental and physical burden that lay judges bear in hearing potential death penalty cases has become a key focal point in the review of the de facto jury system.
Contentious issues relating to lay judges' participation in cases punishable by death include having to commit to long court proceedings, as well as the difficulty in deciding whether a defendant should live or die.
The lay judge system was introduced in May 2009 with the aim of involving ordinary citizens in court trials.
Together with three professional judges, six citizens randomly selected from eligible voters examine murder and other serious criminal cases at district courts. Lay judges also participate in determining sentences.
The system is now being reviewed three years after its debut, as required by law.
With the expectation that death sentences delivered in lay judge trials will ultimately be finalized as appeals are exhausted, how participants feel about their decisions is increasingly becoming a matter of…

Convicted killer hangs himself on California's death row

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(Reuters) - A convicted killer sentenced to death for the 1979 murder of a 13-year-old boy has hanged himself on California's death row, months before voters in the state are due to decide whether to abolish the death penalty, prison officials said on Tuesday.
James Lee Crummel, 68, was found hanging in his cell at San Quentin State Prison, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Sam Robinson said in a written statement.
Crummel, who had prior convictions for child molestation, was pronounced dead at 4:20 p.m. on Sunday. He was sentenced to death in 2004 for the 1979 kidnapping, sexual abuse and murder of 13-year-old Wilfred Trotter, Robinson said. Crummel had been housed on death row ever since.
The suicide comes ahead of a ballot measure in California in November in which voters will decide whether to repeal the death penalty in a state that is home to nearly a quarter of the nation's death row inmates.
The ballot initiative focuses on the high cos…

3 % of US Executions Since 1900 Were Botched, Study Finds

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Since the beginning of the 20th century, an estimated 3 % of all executions in the United States were "botched," according to Amherst College Professor Austin Sarat and a team of undergraduate researchers. The group found that, of approximately 9,000 capital punishments that took place in the country from 1900 to 2011, 270 of them involved some problem in carrying out the death penalty.
"Given the gravity of the decision to put someone to death and the constitutional prohibition of cruel punishment," said Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, "the fact that 3 out of every 100 executions are messed up should be a cause of serious concern to all Americans."
By culling through detailed and often grisly newspaper accounts of capital punishments that occurred over the past 111 years, Sarat and his team created a database -- the only one of its kind, said Sarat -- of all of the mentions of what he describes as &qu…

Malaysia: Filipino maid to hang for drug trafficking

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May 28, 2012: In Malaysia, the High Court sentenced a Filipino maid to the gallows for trafficking 1126.9 grams of cocaine at the Puduraya Bus Terminal in Kuala Lumpur, three years ago.
Judge Datuk Mohd Sofian Abdul Razak sentenced Eliza Sans Gabrier, 45, after the defence had failed to raise any reasonable doubts in the prosecution's case.
In his judgement, Mohd Sofian said the defence's argument was merely denial, as such the court had no other option but to hand her the capital punishment.
Gabrier, who stood in the dock did not give any immediate reaction when the interpreter explained what had transpired, but just closed her face with a white towel.
Throughout the trial, the prosecution led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Lokman Kassim, nine witnesses were called to the stand.
Source: BERNAMA, May 28, 2012

USA: Meet the Exonerated

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We see their broad smiles as they stride to freedom, exchanging embraces with loved ones and flanked by jubilant lawyers. We watch as they step to a bevy of microphones and briefly describe the prison hell they left behind and the uncertain future that lies ahead. For some, a decade of their lives lost. For others, 20, 30, even 40 years, gone forever.
We shake our heads and wonder: Didn't this also happen only a couple of weeks ago? Wasn't that guy innocent, too? Jeez, how many are there?
Now we finally have a measure of the iceberg's tip. Counting only felony cases where innocence has been officially restored, there have been 873 exonerations since 1989, according to a report just released by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University and the University of Michigan Law School. The researchers also identified at least 1,170 cases since 1995 in which police framed innocent defendants, mostly for drug and gun crimes.
The implications are stagg…

Saudi beheads citizen for murder

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RIYADH, May 29, 2012 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded one of its citizens in the western province of Taef after convicting him of murder, the interior ministry said.
Majed ben Ghabish al-Husni was found guilty of shooting to death fellow national, Abdel Mohsen Basha, after a disagreement, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
His beheading brings to 29 the total number of executions in the ultra-conservative kingdom so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on official reports.
Under the AFP count, at least 76 people were beheaded in 2011 in Saudi Arabia, while rights group Amnesty International put the number of executions last year at 79.
The death penalty in Saudi Arabia applies to a wide range of offences including rape, apostasy, armed robbery, homosexuality and drug trafficking, as well as murder, as stipulated by Islamic Sharia law.
Source: Agence France-Presse, May 29, 2012

Emirati to be executed for murder in Fujairah

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Defendant to get 80 lashes before execution for having alcohol
An appeals court in Fujairah has confirmed a death sentence against a young Emirati man for murdering an Arab expatriate after the victim’s relatives rejected diya (blood money) and insisted on the killer’s death.
The court also sentenced the unnamed defendant to 80 lashes before execution on charges of having alcohol before stabbing the Arab to death.
The Emirati committed the crime during a scuffle with the Arab man just after a wedding party in the eastern city.
Guests tried to separate them and end the fight, prompting the Emirati to rush to his car and bring a knife, which he used to stab his adversary many times. The Arab died of his injuries while the Emirati fled the scene.
Police later arrested the killer, who tried to commit a suicide inside the prison. But his attempt failed after prison guards intervened and stopped him.
“The appeals court sentenced the defendant to death and ordered his execution by available …

Lethal drug shortage offers Vietnam death-row prisoners reprieve

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(Reuters) - Hundreds of death-row prisoners in Vietnam have been given a reprieve of sorts due to a shortage of the drug used for lethal injections, a newspaper said on Tuesday.
Death by firing squad was replaced by lethal injections to reduce suffering last July - but police have failed to execute anyone since.
"In the past year, the execution of more than 400 inmates has not been able to go ahead. More than 100 of them have completed all the paperwork," Deputy Police Minister Dang Van Hieu was quoted by Tuesday's Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper as saying.
"Their execution awaits the drug, which is not available yet." He said imports of the unspecified drug "had proved difficult".
The newspaper did not give any suggestion of how the problem could be solved.
The American state of Oklahoma, which executes more prisoners per capita than any other state, said this month it had only one remaining dose of European-made pentobarbital, a key drug used to kill co…

British woman facing death penalty after arrest on suspicion of trafficking cocaine in Bali

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Customs officials detained the woman, identified as Lindsay June Sandiford, 55, on May 19 with almost five kg (11lbs) of cocaine after arriving at the airport in Denpasar on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok.
"We arrested the suspect after we found 4,791 grams of cocaine in her suitcase. She hid it in the lining of her suitcase," said Denpasar airport customs chief I Made Wijaya told reporters.
"We conducted an X-ray scan on the luggage, found a suspicious substance in it and then examined it," he said.
The cocaine has a street value of more than £1.6 million and Sandiford, who told officials she is a housewife, faces the death penalty for drug trafficking, Mr Wijaya said.
Indonesia enforces stiff penalties including life imprisonment and death for drug trafficking.
Two members of an Australian drug smuggling gang known as the "Bali Nine" who were arrested in 2005 are on death row, while seven others face lengthy jail terms.
Another Australian, Schapell…