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Showing posts from April, 2013

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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…

Have Louisiana’s lethal injection drugs expired? Records unavailable

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Death row inmate Christopher Sepulvado, a convicted child killer, wants more information about how the state intends to execute him.
So does The Lens.
The Lens started investigating Louisiana’s capital punishment plans after the state said earlier this year it was abandoning a three-drug cocktail used previously in lethal injections and turning to a one-drug protocol for Sepulvado’s execution.
The state’s responses to inquiries by The Lens and by Sepulvado’s attorneys invite varying interpretations. It is possible to conclude, for example, that the Louisiana Department of Safety and Corrections has no drugs on hand for use in executions or that it has the drug it wants to use — pentobarbital — but no record establishing its expiration date.
Defense attorneys were told the records regarding the state’s current inventory of execution supplies are not available to the public or that their release would endanger public safety. The Lens was told records relating to the current inventory o…

Belarus hands down first death penalty this year

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MINSK, April 30 (RAPSI) - A Belarusian court has handed down the first death penalty this year, the Mogilyov Prosecutor's Office said in a statement on Tuesday.
Belarus remains the only European country that still uses the death penalty and repeatedly comes under harsh criticism from international organizations.
The two men were convicted of murdering their cellmate in prison while serving their sentences for previous crimes. One of them was cumulatively sentenced to execution for all of his crimes, and the other was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
The prosecutors described the individual sentenced to death as an "extremely negative person" and highly dangerous as well. The cellmate who he recently murdered was his fourth victim. His previous crimes also qualified as grave.
"This individual is highly dangerous even when kept in isolation," the statement said. "It is impossible to rehabilitate him through a long or even life imprisonment. In this case, th…

Barack Obama pledges new push to close Guantanamo

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US President Barack Obama has pledged a new push to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, amid a growing prisoner hunger strike there.
At the White House, Mr Obama said the detention centre was "contrary to who we are" and harmful to US interests.
He cited recent convictions of terror suspects to argue the civilian justice system was adequate for such trials.
Congress has blocked efforts to close the prison, but Mr Obama said he would renew discussions with lawmakers.
Mr Obama told reporters he had asked a team of officials to review operations at Guantanamo Bay and said he was not surprised there were problems there.
"It is inefficient, it hurts us in terms of our international standing, it lessens co-operation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts, it is a recruitment tool for extremists, it needs to be closed," Mr Obama said.
'No longer necessary'
He described the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as a "lingering problem" that wou…

FLORIDA: Bill reducing delays in implementation of death penalty approved

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TALLAHASSEE -- State lawmakers Monday gave final approval to a proposal aimed at reducing delays in carrying out the death penalty, with supporters saying they want justice for victims’ families — but critics warning about executing innocent people.
Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who sponsored the measure, said some inmates have been on Death Row for more than 30 years.
"That isn’t justice,’’ Negron said. "That’s a mockery of the court system."
But other lawmakers pointed to scientific advances, such as DNA evidence, that have helped clear some inmates who have been imprisoned for long periods.
"I just think this swiftness does not necessarily equate to fairness,’’ said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.
Senators voted 28-10 on Monday to approve the bill (HB 7083), which passed the House last week. It now goes to Gov. Rick Scott.
The bill focuses, at least in part, on ending delays in what is known as the "post-conviction" legal process, which starts a…

Expert on federal death penalty to defend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

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A federal magistrate judge has appointed a prominent specialist in federal death penalty cases to join the defense team of alleged Boston Marathon terror bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Judy Clarke, a San Diego, Calif., attorney, has the “background, knowledge and experience” that will “enable her to provide adequate representation to the defendant,” US Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler said in a ruling today.
Clarke’s clients have included Unabomber Ted Kaczynski; Susan Smith, who drowned her two children; and most recently Tucson, Ariz., shooter Jared Loughner. All received life sentences instead of the death penalty, The Associated Press reported.
Bowler denied, for the time being, a request for the appointment of a second death penalty specialist for the defense team.
Tsarnaev, 19, faces charges of use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death. He and his brother, Tamerlan, are accused in the April 15 bomb attacks on the marathon that killed…

American Faces Death Penalty in North Korea for Photos He Took

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Korean-American Kenneth Bae made headlines back in November when he was arrested while leading a tour group though the Rason Special Economic Zone in North Korea. The reasons behind the arrest have never been properly confirmed, but it seems that his detainment had something to do with photos he was taking while he was spending time in the country.
No headway has been made in the case since he was taken into custody, but a recent report by the Korean Central News Agency claims that Bae has “admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK,” and that he will now be tried in North Korean supreme court for those crimes, the maximum punishment for which is the death penalty.
Many of the facts in this case (if you can call them that) have been collected from a slew of South Korean sources, some of which are hard, if not impossible, to confirm. What the majority of sources seem to agree about, however, is that his arrest and detainment has something to do with his taking pictures…

Japan: Justice minister gives no comment on selection of 2 inmates for execution

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Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki has kept silent on how two death-row inmates were selected for execution on April 26, while saying he "reviewed their case carefully."
"Japanese law legalizes capital punishment and the court trial concluded after careful deliberation. I also reviewed their case carefully and went ahead with the executions," Tanigaki explained in a news conference on April 26. However, when he was asked why he picked the 2 inmates for execution, he refused to comment.
Hanged were Katsuji Hamasaki, 64, and Yoshihide Miyagi, 56. The pair were convicted of summoning two rival gang heads, aged 45 and 39, to a family restaurant in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, in April 2005 and shooting them to death.
Tanigaki said he had no particular reason for carrying out executions relatively quickly after the previous hangings on Feb. 21.
Hideki Wakabayashi, executive director of Amnesty International Japan, expressed his concern about the current government's…

Death penalty for rape in Papua New Guinea considered

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Horrific crimes against women have drawn international condemnation.
Sydney: Papua New Guinea (PNG) is considering introducing the death penalty for sorcery killings and rape after a spate of horrific crimes against women drew international condemnation, reports said on Monday.
Attorney-General Kerenga Kua said public opinion had swung in favour of capital punishment after a series of brutal sorcery-related murders, including beheadings and torchings, and the gang rape of a US academic.
The crimes have prompted an international outcry and Kua said he had received more than 100 petitions from human rights and other groups across the globe calling for urgent action on the violence against women.
“Those horrific, brutal, gruesome killings of the type that a woman was burnt alive to her death should attract death penalty,” The National newspaper reported Kua as saying.
“Most of the people are ready for it and they want it now as they are fed up of the law and order problems in this countr…

US inmates sue over death penalty

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6 death row inmates sued Arkansas state prison officials on Friday, claiming execution procedures adopted by legislators last month will put them at risk for an agonizing death.
The inmates claim the state's planned use of a slow-acting barbiturate violates their right to be killed swiftly. They asked a state judge to prevent the Department of Correction from carrying out any execution.
Lawyers for the inmates said that when their clients were convicted, Arkansas law required that they be given a "lethal quantity of an ultra-short-acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic agent until the defendant's death."
Procedures adopted last month call for the use of an anti-anxiety drug and phen, a slow-acting barbiturate, in "a completely untried combination and quantity of drugs that will take hours to be injected and to reach their peak effect, that will produce agonizing and degrading effects during the procedure, and that will severely and permanen…

Summary amputations: Taliban justice in Afghanistan

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Two cases of forced amputations in Afghanistan's Herat province have served as a grim reminder of Taliban-style justice almost 12 years since the movement was ousted from power.
Just over a month ago, Fayz Mohammad and his neighbour Zarin were two ordinary young Afghan men.
They held down good jobs as drivers for a local transport company and were happy to be able to feed their families.
Now both are in hospital in Herat, recovering from an ordeal which has left them traumatised and worried for their future.
In mid-March, 25-year-old Fayz and his younger colleague were enjoying time off duty in their home village in Rabat Sangi district while their trucks were being loaded.
On the second night of their stay, Taliban fighters arrived at 03:00 in the morning and abducted them.
The men were taken more than 100 miles away to Torghundi, a town on the border with Turkmenistan. Continue reading the main story “Start Quote
"There was no mullah, no judge, nobody. There were only Talib…

Japan executes two death-row gangsters

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Japan said Friday it hanged two death-row inmates, in the first executions since a trio of convicted killers died in the gallows two months ago and drawing immediate protest from human rights groups.
Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters that Katsuji Hamasaki, 64, and Yoshihide Miyagi, 56, two members of Japan's notorious Yakuza organised crime syndicates, were executed for the shooting of two rival gangsters in Chiba, southeast of Tokyo, in 2005.
The executions bring to five the number of death-row inmates hanged since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's conservative government swept to power in landslide December elections.
Japan now has 134 inmates on its death row.
Amnesty International Japan, the Japanese branch of the global rights group, protested Friday.
"We strongly condemn the five executions conducted since the launch of the new government, which goes against calls by the international community and indicates the government's intention to pave the way …

Maryland Governor to Sign Death Penalty Repeal Next Week

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to sign a measure repealing capital punishment in Maryland into law.
Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for O’Malley, confirmed on Thursday that O’Malley plans to sign the bill at a bill-signing ceremony on May 2.
Maryland will become the 18th state to ban the death penalty. Connecticut did so last year. Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York also have abolished it in recent years.
Maryland has five men on death row. The measure would not apply to them retroactively. But the legislation makes clear the governor can commute their sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole. O’Malley has said he will consider them on a case-by-case basis.
The state’s last execution took place in 2005, during Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s administration.
Source: Reuters, April 26, 2013

Texas executes Richard Cobb

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Texas inmate was executed Thursday for fatally shooting one of three people he and a partner abducted during a convenience store robbery nearly 11 years ago after the U.S. Supreme Court refused a last-day appeal seeking to halt the punishment. He was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m.
Richard Cobb, 29, didn't deny using a 20-gauge shotgun to kill Kenneth Vandever in an East Texas field where two women also were shot and one was raped. He was convicted of capital murder.
His lawyers from the University of Houston-based Texas Innocence Network unsuccessfully contended in an appeal to the high court that a prison expert at Cobb's trial in 2004 falsely described how much freedom the convicted Cobb could expect if Cherokee County jurors gave him life in prison rather than a death sentence.
Cobb's attorneys argued that in at least four other death row cases with similar testimony, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered reviews of those punishments.
In …

Innocent on Florida's Death Row: "We Need Answers, Not More Executions"

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Tallahassee, FL - April 25, 2013 - Legislation (HB7083 “Timely Justice Act”) to speed up and increase executions by “streamlining” the process has passed the Florida House of Representatives.
Since Florida resumed executions in the 1970’s, twenty-four wrongfully convicted Death Row prisoners have been exonerated while seventy-five prisoners have been executed. “That’s one exoneration for every three executions,” said Mark Elliott, Director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, ”It is astonishing that the focus is on hurrying-up executions and not investigating how so many innocent people could be sent to Death Row and how many more are there now. ”
Just four months ago, Seth Penalver became Florida’s 24th exonerated Death Row prisoner. Florida holds the national record for sentencing the most people to death who were later, sometimes many years later, exonerated and freed due to new evidence of wrongful conviction. The Death Penalty Information Center recognizes Seth …

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should not face the death penalty, even for a capital crime

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The US Justice Department faces enormous pressure to seek the execution of Tsarnaev. But against terror, we should choose life.

There are two fundamental reasons why the death penalty should not be imposed in this case. The first is the obverse of the argument that if anyone deserves the death penalty, it is this defendant. That may well be true. But it follows that if this defendant does not deserve the death penalty, then no one does.
In other words, a decision to withhold the death penalty in this case would be a powerful argument against the morality of the death penalty in any case. As a lifelong opponent of capital punishment in all cases, I would argue that not applying it in this case could have a considerable impact on the movement toward abolition.
This abolitionist argument is unlikely to have much impact on the Obama administration, which favors the death penalty, at least in extreme cases, such as this one. There is an argument, however, that could have an impact even on …

Bangladesh executes man for killing wife, child

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April 23, 2013: Mohammad Saleh Nur was hanged at Kashimpur jail in Gazipur, Bangladesh, on the first minute of today for murdering his wife and child.
Nur, 48, was from Chandraghona Fakirparha of Chittagong’s Rangunia Upazila and son of Saidur Rahman.
“The convict was full of remorse for his deeds before death. He said he deserved death for killing his wife and child,” Kashimpur high security central jail Senior Jailor Abdur Razzaq said. Nur gagged his wife Renu Akhter and three-month old child Amatun Nur in their sleep over alleged extra-marital affair on Mar 5, 2002, Rangunia Police Station Officer in-Charge Manjurul Morshed told bdnews24.com.
Nur confessed in court to have killed his wife over his wife’s extra-marital affair with his expatriate brother, OC said.
A Chittagong court ordered his execution on Jun 21, 2005. He appealed at the higher court on Oct 2, 2009 but the court said he must die. The Appellate Division of Supreme Court confirmed his execution order in Jul 9, 2012.

Boston Bombing Suspect Receives All-Star Defense Team

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FBI (BOSTON) -- Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev managed to say just one word to a federal judge when charges were filed against him in a makeshift courtroom held at the side of his hospital bed: "No."
His reply was in response to whether he could afford an attorney.
As a result, Tsarnaev, 19, who is facing the possibility of the death penalty for his alleged role in last week's terror attack, will be represented by one of the most experienced and well respected public defenders in the country, Miriam Conrad.
Conrad heads the Federal Public Defender Office in Boston and her resume includes defending "shoe bomber" Richard Reid in 2001 for trying to blow up a Paris to Miami jetliner.
"She is excellent, tough, tenacious and wise," said Tamar R. Birckhead, now a University of North Carolina law professor who worked with Conrad for four years, including on the Reid case.
Tsarnaev is charged with detonating a weapon of mass destruction and maliciou…

Executing Human Dignity: U.S. Death Penalty System Dominates IACHR Report

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The U.S. death penalty system does not meet the rigid requirements of international human rights law: as we note in our statement, the penalty is applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner without affording vital due process rights such as access to effective counsel and the right to remedy to halt executions - not to mention that methods of execution and death row conditions have been condemned as cruel, inhuman, or degrading.
The U.S. cannot continue to bury its head in the sand and ignore the evolving international consensus against the death penalty, or discount sound jurisprudence from around the world, which clearly shakes the legal and moral foundation of the penalty.
But people are still being executed. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, as of December 2012, 1,320 people have been executed since the death penalty was restored in 1976. Yet international scrutiny is mounting and the U.S. is left in the sorry company of countries like China, Iran, Iraq, Sa…

Arkansas turns to different lethal injection drug

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After surrendering its supply of a lethal injection drug to federal agents in 2011, Arkansas turned to a somewhat surprising place to look for another drug: a list from lawyers for several death row inmates.
The state Department of Correction told The Associated Press last week that it decided to use phenobarbital after attorneys for several death row inmates mentioned in a lawsuit that it might be an available drug. Phenobarbital, which is used to treat seizures, has never been used in a U.S. execution, and critics contend that a drug that's untested in lethal injections could lead to inhumane deaths for condemned prisoners.
"People should not be using inmates as an experiment," said David Lubarsky, who chairs the anesthesiology department at the University of Miami's medical school. "And that is basically what this is. It's basically experimenting."
As drugmakers object to their products' use in lethal injections, more death penalty states have b…

Boston bombing: Latest Federal cases resulted in life sentences ... after initial thoughts about the death penalty

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Given the now-notorious circumstances of the bombing, Tsarnaev could theoretically be charged with use of weapons of mass destruction resulting in death, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit organization that researches capital punishment.
That statute and other federal charges can be punishable by execution, said Dieter, who also predicted "there's a good likelihood" the government would seek the death penalty.
Current Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and her staff are expected to decide the specific federal charges filed against Tsarnaev. If the charges are death penalty-eligible, she would make a recommendation to Attorney General Eric Holder.
He would review the recommendation, as would a panel at the main Department of Justice office in Washington - and defense lawyers would have an opportunity to submit arguments at both reviews. Holder would then issue the final decision, the final step in a process…

Saudi beheaded for murder, 35th execution this year

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Riyadh: Saudi authorities on Monday beheaded a citizen convicted of murder, the interior ministry said, bringing to 35 the number of executions in the kingdom so far this year.
Mohammad ben Ali al-Alawi was convicted of knifing a fellow citizen to death during a fight, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency, without giving further details.
His beheading brings to 35 the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the year, according to an AFP tally.
In 2012, the kingdom executed 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. Human Rights Watch put the number at 69.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery,homosexuality and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of sharia, or Islamic law.
Source: Agence France-Presse, April 22, 2013

Lindsay Sandiford to go to court over UK government refusal to fund her Bali death sentence appeal

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Lawyers for British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will go to the Court of Appeal in London over a UK government refusal to fund her appeal against a death sentence for drug smuggling imposed by an Indonesian court.
The case will go before the UK appeal court on Monday.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it would not pay for "an adequate lawyer" to represent Sandiford, 56, from Cheltenham.
She was sentenced to death by firing squad by a court in Bali for taking STG1.6 million ($A2.39 million) of cocaine on to the island.
Earlier this month Sandiford lost the first appeal to the Bali High Court but is expected to take her case to Indonesia's Supreme Court.
At the end of January, UK High Court judges upheld the government refusal to fund her, despite pleas that she was urgently in need of money and her family had exhausted all their available resources.
Mrs Justice Gloster, sitting with Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, said the court understood "the deep concern…