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Showing posts from August, 2012

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No Second Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

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Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. The state shouldn't get a second chance.
The pathos and problems of America's death penalty were vividly on display yesterday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after its failure Gov. John Kasich set June 5, 2019, as a new execution date.
This plan for a second execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal standards governing botched executions in the United States.
Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.
By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America's death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.
The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with serious ailm…

Saudi Arabia: Syrian convicted of murder beheaded

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His execution brings to 50 number of people beheaded in Saudi Arabia so far this year.
Riyadh: Saudi authorities beheaded by the sword a Syrian man on Wednesday after convicting him of murdering a bedouin, the interior ministry said.
Abeer Zaidan was found guilty of murdering Badr Bin Murad Al Shimmari, who belonged to a nomadic tribe, the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.
It said Zaidan “deceived his victim, hit him with a piece of iron until he died, and stole the money he had on him.”
His execution in Qurrayyat, in the northern region of Jawf, brings to 50 the number of people beheaded in Saudi Arabia so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on official reports.
Rights group Amnesty International puts the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia last year at 79.
The death penalty applies to a wide range of offences including rape, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking, as well as murder, as stipulated by Islamic sharia law.
Source: AFP,…

Despite Critics, Gambia Plans Dozens Of Executions

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There is growing international criticism over plans by Gambia's hard-line president to execute all of the country's death-row inmates within the next couple of weeks.
Gambia's leader, President Yahya Jammeh, has long faced criticism for his human rights record. In a recent speech marking the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, the president vowed to put to death all prisoners facing the death penalty by mid-September, as a way to curb crime.
"By the middle of next month, all the death sentences would have been carried out to the letter. There is no way my government will allow 99 percent of the population to be held to ransom by criminals," Jammeh said in a speech on Aug. 19, broadcast on Gambian national television the following day.
Despite pressure from human rights groups, his African peers and Western powers, including the U.S., Jammeh has already begun to carry out the executions.
In a statement Monday, the government said nine inmates were executed by …

Georgia: Baker death penalty pardon observed

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ALBANY, Ga. — Today marks the seventh anniversary of the pardon of Lena Baker, who was executed in Georgia’s electric chair in 1945.
Baker, who lived in Randolph County, held the distinction of being the only woman to be executed by electrocution in Georgia.
She was a black maid who was executed for murder on charges of killing her employer, Ernest Knight, in 1944. At her trial she said that he had imprisoned and threatened to shoot her should she try to leave. She took his gun and shot him
In 2005 Baker was granted a full and unconditional pardon by the State of Georgia, 60 years after her execution. The movie “The Lena Baker Story,” is about her life.
Her nephew, Roosevelt Curry, received the papers pardoning Baker posthumously. The pardon stated the 1945 decision to deny her clemency and execute her was “a grievous error.”
“It was an injustice. It was wrong,” Curry said. “I want to thank the board for the pardon.”
“The truth has never been told. She was abused,” Curry said. “Only …

Iraq executes five over terrorism

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Baghdad, Aug 29 (IANS) - Iraq Wednesday executed five convicted prisoners over terrorism charges, including a Syrian and Saudi national, the justice ministry announced.
On Tuesday, Iraq executed 21 prisoners, including three women, over similar charges of terrorist crimes.
The death sentences were carried out after the Iraqi Presidency Council approved the penalty verdicts for all the five convicts, Xinhua quoted the justice ministry as saying in a statement.
Death penalty in Iraq was once suspended for over a year in 2003. But the Iraqi government reinstated capital punishment Aug 2004. (IANS)
Source: IANS, August 29, 2012

Thailand: Death penalty abolished for young offenders

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The Thai government has abolished the death penalty for offenders younger than 18 years of age and further reduced life imprisonment terms for minors to 50 years in prison.
The change came after the cabinet approved on May 20 the withdrawal of Thailand 's interpretative declarations to Article 6(5) and Article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
"[As per Article 6(5) of the ICCPR] Thailand has amended its domestic laws to comply with these provisions. Thailand has abolished the death sentence for persons below 18 years of age," the Justice Ministry said.
"Moreover, in the case where life imprisonment is imposed on persons below 18 years old, the sentence is to be reduced to 50 years' imprisonment."
As for Article 9(3) of the ICCPR, the Criminal Procedure Code has been amended to oblige officials to bring arrested persons before the court within 48 hours after he or she is brought to the inquiry office, with exceptions …

Crimes against Children in Iran

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In this legal commentary, Iranian human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei analyzes the practice of juvenile execution in Iran through an examination of several case studies and exploration of relevant Iranian laws. By Mohammad Mostafaei, Iranian Human Rights Lawyer, August 2012.

Case No. 1 – Alireza Mullah Soltani, 17 years old
On July 16, 2011, Alireza Mullah Soltani, a 17 year-old youth, along with two of his friends were driving home in a [Kia]-Pride automobile on Gulshahr Street in Karaj when a black Hyundai-Azera started tail-gating them and flashing headlights, indicating to Soltani and his friends to move faster. The driver of the Pride accelerates; however, some distance further the car has to slow down because speed-bumps on the road. The deceleration frustrates the Hyundai passengers and a verbal argument ensues between the passengers in the two cars. The Pride approaches Puneh Street; as it turns onto the street, one of the passengers in the Azera leans his upper body down to…

India's top court upholds death penalty for Mumbai attacks gunman

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Kasab, one of 10 gunmen who laid siege to Mumbai in attacks that lasted nearly three days and killed 166 people, had appealed claiming he had not been given a fair trial.
New Delhi: India's Supreme Court on Wednesday confirmed the death sentence handed down to Mohammad Kasab, the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed.
Pakistan-born Kasab, one of 10 gunmen who laid siege to Mumbai in attacks that lasted nearly three days, had appealed against the sentence and claimed he had not been received a fair trial.
"We are left with no option but to award death penalty," the two judges said in a court order. "The primary and foremost offence committed by Kasab is waging war against the government of India."
The judges had opened the appeal by Kasab, who is being held in a maximum-security prison in Mumbai, in January.
He was found guilty in a Mumbai court on charges, including waging war against India, murder and terrorist acts…

Study: Death Row inmates pick comfort foods for last meals

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(AP) ALBANY, N.Y. — On death row, last meals tend to be high in calories and heavy on meat.
French fries, soda, ice cream, hamburgers, chicken, steak and pie are commonly requested items among inmates imminently facing execution, according to Cornell University researchers who studied 193 last meal requests in the United States.
The final meals of condemned prisoners are an enduring, if morbid, source of fascination — whether those convicted of the most heinous crimes opted for a final lobster dinner or canned spaghetti. Requests vary greatly, but the Cornell researchers found some general trends in a quirky bit of research analyzing last meal orders.
No surprise: Many last meal requests are tasty but unhealthy. More than two-thirds of the condemned ordered fried foods, mostly french fries, and they ordered dessert at about the same rate. Inmates were five times more likely to request soda than milk.
The average meal request came in at an estimated 2,756 calories, more than a typica…

Sierra Leone Government Promises End to Death Penalty

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Solomon Sogbandi, the acting director for Amnesty International in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone says the group is working to make sure the government abolishes the death penalty in the country. So far the government has put a moratorium on executions. And that is a step in the right direction, Sogbandi says.
"To us [the death penalty is] unconstitutional and violation to the right to life, as it says in Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said Sogbandi.
However, recent news reports that executions were held in neighboring Gambia last week have raised his concerns about what that may mean for Sierra Leone.
Gambia outlawed capital punishment decades ago, but President Yahya Jammeh re-instated the death penalty in 1995.
"Today it is happening in Gambia, tomorrow it could be Sierra Leone," Sogbandi added. "You can't tell because it was initially abolished, but reintroduced with Jammeh coming to power so we can't tell. Now we have government s…

Iran: Proposed Penal Code Deeply Flawed

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(Beirut) – Proposed amendments to Iran’s penal code would violate the rights of accused people and criminal defendants, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Iranian authorities should suspend enactment of the proposed amendments and undertake a major overhaul of the country’s abusive penal laws.
The 48-page report, “Codifying Repression: An Assessment of Iran’s New Penal Code,” says that many problematic provisions of the current penal code remain unaddressed in the proposed amendments. Some of the amendments would weaken further the rights of criminal defendants and convicts and allow judges wide discretion to issue punishments that violate the rights of the accused. Lawmakers and judiciary officials have cited the amendments as a serious attempt to comply with Iran’s international human rights obligations.
“These amendments do little to address penal code provisions that allow the government to jail, torture, and execute people who criticize the government,” said Jo…

Wanted: Sri Lanka hangman. Very light work. Only males need apply

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(Reuters) - Sri Lanka on Tuesday began interviews for the post of hangman a year after two positions fell vacant, with at least 480 convicts on death row.
But it was not quite clear how the two successful candidates would fill their days - the death penalty has not been used in Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country, since 1976.
"About 176 applicants are there and interviews are going on today and tomorrow," Gamini Kulatunga, commissioner operations at the Prisons Department, told Reuters. "Only males will be eligible for the post."
The two posts fell vacant after one hangman was promoted and the other retired.
At least 480 people convicted of murder and drugs offences could potentially be executed, Kulatunga said.
There has been an alarming rise in child abuse, rapes, murders, and drug trafficking since the 25-year war against Tamil Tiger separatists ended in May 2009, prompting some lawyers and politicians to push for the death penalty to be reintroduced.
S…

The Living Death of Solitary Confinement

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There are many ways to destroy a person, but the simplest and most devastating might be solitary confinement. Deprived of meaningful human contact, otherwise healthy prisoners often come unhinged. They experience intense anxiety, paranoia, depression, memory loss, hallucinations and other perceptual distortions. Psychiatrists call this cluster of symptoms SHU syndrome, named after the Security Housing Units of many supermax prisons. Prisoners have more direct ways of naming their experience. They call it “living death,” the “gray box,” or “living in a black hole.”
In June the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, headed by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, held the first Congressional hearing on solitary confinement. Advocates and experts in the field were invited to submit testimony on the psychological, ethical, social and economic issues raised by punitive isolation. Among the many contributors was Anthony Graves, who spent …

Saudi beheaded for murder

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Riyadh: A Saudi man was executed Tuesday after being convicted of murdering a compatriot, the interior ministry said.
Mohammad Al Salala Asiri was beheaded by the sword in the southwestern province of Asir after being found guilty of stabbing to death Amir Al Zayadi, the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.
His execution brings to 49 the number of people beheaded in Saudi Arabia so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on official reports.
Rights group Amnesty International puts the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia last year at 79.
Article continues below
The death penalty applies to a wide range of offences including rape, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking, as well as murder, as stipulated by the Sharia law.
Source: Agence France-Presse, August 28, 2012

Iraq announces 21 executions in one day

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IRAQ has executed 21 people convicted of terror-related charges, including three women, on the same day, bringing to 91 the number of people executed so far this year.
The executions come despite a call from the UN's human rights chief for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Iraq, amid concerns over the lack of transparency in court proceedings.
"The justice ministry carried out 21 executions against those condemned of terrorist charges, including three women terrorists," justice ministry spokesman Haidar al-Saadi said in a text message. He did not give any further details.
A justice ministry official said the executions were carried out on Monday morning.
Iraq has carried out several mass executions in 2012, including one in which 14 people were put to death on February 7, and another in which 17 were executed on January 31.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed shock earlier this year at the number of executions, criticising the lack …

South Dakota Preps For Rare Execution of Inmate

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A South Dakota judge has issued a death warrant for convicted murderer Eric Donald Robert, bringing the state 1 step closer to its 1st execution in more than 5 years.
On Friday, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said the execution is set for the week of Oct. 14. Last week, an appeals court upheld the death penalty conviction of Mr. Robert, who pleaded guilty to killing a prison guard. Mr. Robert had asked for capital punishment for his crime.
An execution is a rare occurrence in South Dakota, where there's been only 1 prisoner killed by the state in the past 65 years and there are just 5 prisoners on death row, including Mr. Robert. The last to be executed was convicted murderer Elijah Page in July, 2007.
What's also unique about Mr. Robert's case is the short time period - just 18 months - between the murder and his execution date. Many death penalty cases take well over a decade to work their way through the courts.
"It is particularly unusual in this cas…

EU condemns Gambia executions, promises urgent response

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The European Union called on Gambia on Sunday to stop executing death row inmates and said the bloc would come up with a quick but unspecified response to executions reported last week.
Gambia has neither confirmed nor denied an Amnesty International report saying that 9 of its 47 death row inmates had been executed overnight on Thursday. An official in the president's office said a statement would be made on Monday.
But a leading opposition figure said those reported to have been executed should be paraded on television if they were still alive while international sanctions should be imposed on the West African state's leadership if they had been executed.
President Yahya Jammeh, whose rights record has long been criticized since he seized power in 1994, said in a speech last Monday that he planned to execute all the country's death row inmates by mid-September.
"I strongly condemn the executions which have reportedly taken place on Thursday 23 August 2012, followin…

URGENT APPEAL for 45 Gambian death-row inmates

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Amnesty International has received credible reports that, since this UA was drafted, nine individuals were executed in Gambia and that more are under threat of imminent executions in the coming days. We urge you to take immediate action.
Gambian president Yahya Jammeh has announced that all death row inmates will be executed by mid-September. Amnesty International urges the President to immediately retract this call and impose an official moratorium on executions.
On both 19 and 20 August, in a television address broadcast to mark the Muslim feast of Eid-al-Fitrt, President Jammeh announced to the nation that, by the middle of September all death sentences will be "carried out to the letter", to "ensure that criminals get what they deserve." If executions are carried out, it will mark the end of a 27-year period without executions.
According to The Gambian government, there were 42 men and two women on death row as of 31 December 2011, 13 of whom had been sentence…

North Carolina: Council hears death penalty findings

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Appalachian State University government and justice studies professor Matt Robinson and global studies major Amanda Moore spoke to the Boone Town Council about the death penalty Thursday as part of a regional education campaign.
Robinson published a report in March 2011 summarizing data and scientific studies related to the death penalty in North Carolina. He presented 5 key findings that he said support the abolishment of the death sentence in the state.
"Now is a good time to summarize these studies for policymakers - from the local level to the state level and beyond," said Robinson.
Capital punishment is extremely rare in North Carolina, Robinson said, noting a decline in death sentences since 2001 and that no executions have taken place since 2006.
Executions are no greater a deterrent to murder than alternative sanctions such as life without parole, he said. Murder rates are low despite reduced use of the death sentence, he noted.
"Yet we continue to pay for it a…

U.S.: Only Marine on military's death row has sentence overturned

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A military appeals court has overturned the death sentence of Lance Cpl. Kenneth G. Parker, who had been the only Marine on the military's death row, according to court documents.
In 1995, Parker was sentenced to death after being convicted of two counts of premeditated murder, and one count of armed robbery and kidnapping. The appeals court threw out 1 of the 2 murder counts on Wednesday, and instead of the death penalty, Parker will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The 1st murder took place during a night of drinking and talk of racial tensions on March 26, 1992, according to court documents.
While a group of 6 African-American Marines talked at Camp Lejeune, N.C., a rumor was circulating that a group of White Marines had tried to lynch an African-American Marine on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
A witness in legal proceedings testified that Parker said, "We are going to get us a white boy tonight."
The men left the base and traveled to nearby Ja…

Libya 'sets September trial' for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi

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The ICC's Sonia Robia: "The ICC judges have requested additional information from the Libyan authorities"
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of former leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, will go on trial in Libya in September, a Libyan prosecution spokesman has said.
Saif al-Islam, 40, will face trial in the town of Zintan, where he has been held since his capture last year.
The International Criminal Court, which has issued a warrant for crimes against humanity, says it is aware of the news but has not been contacted by Libya.
Saif al-Islam has said he wants to be tried at the ICC in The Hague.
Activists have also raised fears that he could face the death penalty if found guilty in Libya.
Saif al-Islam was considered the most likely successor to Col Gaddafi before the uprising that led to his father's downfall last year.
Col Gaddafi, whose autocratic rule lasted for 42 years, was killed after being captured by rebels last October.
'More secure'
Announcing the trial date,…