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Showing posts from August, 2015

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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…

Oklahoma death row inmate mumbles incoherently during insanity hearing

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Benjamin Robert Cole did not respond to most questions, as attorneys argues his mental state has deteriorated while imprisoned for 2002 murder of daughter
An Oklahoma man scheduled to die for killing his 9-month-old daughter mumbled about religion Friday during a hearing about his sanity, but only answered a few questions when testifying.
Attorneys for Benjamin Robert Cole don't think he's sane enough to be executed. They say the prison warden is violating a state law that requires her to notify the local district attorney when an inmate has become insane.
Cole was in a wheelchair during the hearing in a Pittsburg County courtroom in McAlester, where Cole is being housed at the Oklahoma state penitentiary. The 50-year-old with long hair and a graying beard mostly mumbled and appeared to have his eyes closed as he sat slumped over while testifying.
He didn't respond to most of the questions.
When District Judge James Bland asked Cole why he was being executed, the inmate r…

Saudi executes Pakistani for drug trafficking

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Saudi authorities executed a Pakistani man on Sunday for attempting to smuggle drugs into the ultra-conservative kingdom, the interior ministry said. 
Up to 129 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia so far this year, including the latest execution, compared with 87 for the whole of 2014, according to AFP tallies. 
Mohammed Sharif was arrested while attempting to smuggle heroin into the country hidden in his stomach, the ministry said in a statement published on the SPA state news agency. 
He was executed in the Quwaiya district, near Riyadh. 
Most people sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia are beheaded, but sometimes executions are carried out by firing squad. 
Amnesty International on Tuesday appealed for a moratorium on executions in Saudi Arabia, criticising the kingdom's "deeply flawed judicial system". 
Under Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic legal code, drug trafficking, murder, armed robbery, rape, homosexuality and apostasy are all punishable by death…

Iran: 16 executions in 3 days

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The inhuman mullahs’ regime in Iran hanged 16 prisoners in various cities on August 26, 27 and 29.
On August 26, in addition to the criminal execution of political prisoner Mr. Behrouz Alkhani in Urumia Prison, twelve other prisoners were collectively hanged in prisons in Kermanshah and Urumia. The Iranian regime has so far refrained from publishing information on those executed.
On August 27, Jamal Ja’afari, from the city of Sanadaj, was hanged after suffering four years imprisonment in this city. Similarly, on August 29, two prisoners were hanged in prisons in Bandar Abbas and Khorramabad. Abdollah Zarei, 25, who was hanged in Bandar Abbas was from Minab County, Hormozgan Province. A 23-year-old prisoner was also transferred to solitary confinement along with Zarei in preparation for execution, but there is no news about his fate.
These executions that demonstrate the regime’s fear of growing social protests are merely a minute section of the nationwide suppression of the Iranian p…

Pakistan: Jail to explain tomorrow how it will hang disabled prisoner

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Jail authorities in Lahore have been given 24 hours to explain how they will physically hang a disabled prisoner.
At a hearing at the Lahore High Court today, lawyers for Abdul Basit, 43, argued that his execution would constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, prohibited under Pakistani and international law. Basit is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair as a result of an illness he contracted while in prison, for which he did not receive adequate treatment. Basit’s lawyers contend that he has already suffered unusual punishment, and to try to execute him now would be a form of “double punishment”, and a breach of Pakistani law. His execution was scheduled for last month, but has been postponed by the court.
Pakistan’s Jail Manual gives no instructions on how to execute disabled prisoners, and at today’s hearing, it emerged the jail had given no thought to how they would practically carry out Basit’s hanging. The judge told jail officials today that they woul…

Missouri: Court denies motions from man set to be executed Tuesday

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The Missouri Supreme Court has denied the latest legal challenges from a man scheduled to be executed Tuesday for raping and killing a 15-year-old Kansas City girl in 1989.
The judges ruled Friday to overrule a motion that sought a stay of execution for Roderick Nunley. 
The court also rejected his request for a writ of habeas corpus, which allows prisoners to challenge their convictions on constitutional grounds.
Nunley was 1 of 2 men who pleaded guilty and received the death penalty in the death of Ann Harrison. 
She was waiting for a school bus in front of her home when she was abducted. 
Michael Taylor was executed for the same crime in 2014.
Source: Associated Press, August 30, 2015
Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Indonesia's struggling economy cannot afford another execution, Bali Nine lawyer warns

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Indonesia's struggling economy could be one reason why there has been little word of the country's next round of executions, according to the lead lawyer for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
Australians Chan and Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine, were among several foreigners shot dead in April.
According to high-profile Indonesian lawyer and professor Todung Mulya Lubis, who has been in Australia to talk about an ongoing campaign against the death penalty, it is too early to say if the economic slowdown was contributing to a de facto moratorium.
"But I believe that Jokowi now realises that he has to pay the price for those two executions," Professor Lubis said.
Late last year Indonesian president Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, said there would be no clemency for more than 60 people convicted of drugs offences, and two rounds of executions were carried out in the early part of 2015.
Indonesia's economic growth has now dipped below 5 per c…

China Exempts 9 Crimes from Death Penalty

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China's top legislature on Saturday adopted amendments to the Criminal Law, removing the death penalty for nine crimes, and ruling out commutation for most corrupt figures.
The 9 crimes punishable by death include smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currency; counterfeiting currency; raising funds by means of fraud; arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution; obstructing a police officer or a person on duty from performing his duties; and fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime.
After removing the death penalty for these crimes, those convicted will face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The amendments were voted in by lawmakers at the end of a six-day bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.
The move to limit the use of the death penalty comes in the wake of judicial reform pushed forward by the Communist Party of China in recent years to gradually reduce the number of …

Disease, suicide claiming Alabama death row inmates before executions

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BIRMINGHAM | Disease and suicide are claiming inmates on Alabama’s death row faster than the executioner.
With Alabama’s capital punishment mechanism on hold for more than two years because of legal challenges and a shortage of drugs for lethal injections, five of the state’s death row inmates have died without ever seeing the inside of the execution chamber.
John Milton Hardy, convicted of killing Clarence Nugene Terry during a robbery at a convenience store in Decatur in 1993, was the most recent death row inmate to die. Prison officials say he died of unspecified natural causes on June 15.
Convicted killer Benito Albarran, 41, hanged himself in the infirmary at Donaldson prison about two months earlier. A decade earlier, he was convicted of fatally shooting Huntsville police officer Daniel Golden outside a Mexican restaurant where he worked.
Golden’s brother, David Golden, said family members wanted to witness Albarran’s execution and felt cheated by his death.
“He took the coward…

Chad executes 10 Boko Haram members 1 day after verdict

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Chad executed by firing squad 10 members of Boko Haram on Saturday, the security minister said, marking the 1st use of the death penalty since the country bolstered its anti-terror measures last month.
The 10 men were sentenced to death on Friday after being convicted of crimes including murder and the use of explosives. 
They were killed at around 11 a.m., Ahmat Mahamat Bachir, the security minister, said Saturday.
Those killed included Bahna Fanaye, alias Mahamat Moustapha, who Chadian officials have described as a leader of the Nigeria-based group.
Chad has vowed to take a leading role in a regional force to fight Boko Haram that is also expected to include soldiers from Cameroon, Benin and Niger in addition to Nigeria. Boko Haram has targeted Nigeria's neighbors in regular attacks this year.
In June and July Chad's capital, N'Djamena, was rocked by a series of suicide attacks that killed dozens of people - the 1st such attacks since Boko Haram threatened the country e…

Argentine mom hopes pope will help get son off Texas death row

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When Lidia Guerrero met with Pope Francis in Rome last year, the Argentine native told her he knew all about Guerrero's son, who has been on death row in Texas for 19 years.
"I've prayed so much for that young man from Cordoba,' she says Francis told her, referring to the hometown of Victor Hugo Saldano.
The short meeting in February 2014 left Guerrero with more hope than she has felt in years about the future of her son, who she says is guilty of murder but has been driven to insanity on death row.
Francis, an Argentine native, is a staunch critic of the death penalty. Like most countries in Latin America, Argentina does not have capital punishment.
Death penalty opponents are hoping that Francis pressures lawmakers to abolish it when he visits the United States next month, and Guerrero is praying that the pope intervenes on behalf of her son.
Such pleas by popes or politicians from other countries often fall on deaf ears, and face particularly long odds in Texas, t…

Dexter Lewis verdict sends a message on Colorado's death penalty

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For the 2nd time this summer, a first-rate team of Colorado prosecutors could not secure a death sentence for the perpetrator of crimes of almost indescribable horror.
Dexter Lewis, like James Holmes, will spend the rest of his life behind bars instead. Never mind that he is guilty of stabbing 5 people to death 3 years ago in an orgy of utter depravity. 1 or more jurors obviously concluded that his woefully sad and painful childhood made him an inappropriate candidate for capital punishment.
This is no criticism of the jury. That conclusion is entirely defensible and perhaps even predictable - just as it was always plausible that defense attorneys would convince at least one juror in Holmes' trial that he was too mentally ill to be put to death.
Moreover, a death sentence for Lewis - a black man - would have raised equity questions after Holmes, who is white, was able to secure life without parole.
But if both verdicts in those cases are reasonable, what do they say about the dea…

What's the Future of the Death Penalty in America?

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Two recent high-profile cases have once again highlighted America's complex relationship with the death penalty. In Colorado, a jury declined to impose the death penalty on theater shooter James Holmes. And in Connecticut, whose legislature had recently abolished capital punishment prospectively, the state supreme court held that the Connecticut constitution barred the execution of those whose offenses had preceded that legislative change.
Both cases contributed to the ongoing national capital punishment debate. Some openly wondered whether the availability of the death penalty in Colorado still has any practical meaning, if jurors couldn't be convinced to impose it on someone like Holmes. And the Connecticut court's opinion included an extensive discussion of the various trends taking shape across the country. It's clear that the question of the future of capital punishment in America remains a lively one. (Full disclosure: I'm a criminal defense attorney, and my…

Nebraska death penalty repeal on hold

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Supporters of retaining the death penalty in Nebraska turned in thousands more signatures than necessary on Wednesday to suspend the repeal and place the issue before voters.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty turned in petitions containing 166,692 signatures. Leaders of the group called that a surprisingly large number and said it signaled that voters in the 2016 general election will retain the ultimate penalty for the most heinous murders, reversing the repeal enacted by the State Legislature this spring.
A lot of senators will find out that their constituents have a different view, I really believe that," said State Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, a death penalty supporter who circulated petitions.
Opponents of the death penalty, meanwhile, said that they expect Nebraska voters to come to the same conclusion as 30 of the state's 49 state lawmakers. Voters will learn that the risks of executing innocent people, the "tremendous waste" of taxpayer dollars and the …

Hearing Monday to decide fate of Pakistani paraplegic on death row

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A court hearing in Pakistan tomorrow (31st) could decide whether the government should be allowed to execute a severely disabled man.
Abdul Basit, 43, was convicted and sentenced to death for murder in 2009. In 2010, he contracted tubercular meningitis in prison, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. A Government-appointed medical board recently confirmed that Basit has no use of his lower limbs and is “bed bound with urinary and fecal incontinence.” Despite being unable to stand, and reliant on a wheelchair, the Pakistani authorities have issued a ‘Black Warrant’ for his execution – part of a wave of hangings in Pakistan that has seen over 200 prisoners killed since December 2014.
At a hearing in July, the Lahore High Court ordered a stay of execution for Basit, after his lawyers argued that his execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment – violating the fundamental right to human dignity enshrined in Pakistan’s Constitution. Tomorrow’s hearing will decide whethe…

Virginia relaxes restrictions on death row inmates

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Virginia prison officials have relaxed the restrictive conditions under which death row inmates live and are in talks to settle a lawsuit over those prisoners’ near constant placement in solitary confinement — a signal that state authorities are willing to at least modify the incarceration practice that is facing increasing criticism across the country.
State officials revealed in a recent court filing that Virginia’s eight death row inmates are allowed weekly contact visits with family members and more opportunity for showers and recreation — including daily sessions in which they are allowed to mingle in person with up to three others slated to die.
Victor M. Glasberg, an attorney for four inmates in Virginia who are suing over their placement in solitary confinement, said the contact visits with family members, in particular, are “decidedly huge” for the inmates. But he said he is working to understand how the other changes have been implemented and whether the inmates are still f…

California Death Penalty, Struck Down Over Delays, Faces Next Test

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Whether California’s application of the death penalty is so drawn out and arbitrary that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment will be argued on Monday before a federal appeals court in Pasadena.
If the lawyers for a condemned man are victorious, the case could bring a reprieve to more than 740 prisoners now on death row at San Quentin State Prison and send legal ripples across the country. Either way, legal experts say, it raises issues about the administration of capital punishment that are likely to reach the Supreme Court over time.
In Monday’s hearing before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, California officials will seek to overturn a surprise ruling last year by a lower federal court, which declared the state’s “death penalty system” to be unconstitutional.
Hailed by death penalty opponents as a breakthrough and attacked by others as unwise and legally out of line, the decision was issued on July 16, 2014, by Judge Cormac J. …

London preacher who called for gays to be killed now facing terror charges

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Radical London preacher Anjem Choudary, who previously called for gay people to be stoned to death, is set to face trial on terror charges after allegedly encouraging support for ISIS.
The 47-year-old is the former UK head of the Islamist group al-Muhajiroun or Islam4UK, which was banned in the UK in 2010.
He suggested at a press conference in 2009 that gay people should be stoned to death, and has maintained that stance since.
Choudary, who frequently causes controversy with his extremist views and high-profile protests, is charged with allegedly calling on social media for people to support ISIS.
The 48-year-old, from Ilford, east London, appeared in the Old Bailey via video link.
He was remanded in custody, and his trial is set to begin next year, on January 11.
He was charged alongside Mohammed Rahman, 32, of Whitechapel, east London, with one offence under section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which bans people from “inviting support for a proscribed organisation”.
The court hea…

Texas: Scheduled Execution Date Withdrawn for Joe Franco Garza

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The scheduled execution date for Joe Franco Garza has been withdrawn.
Garza was scheduled for execution on September 2. He was found guilty of the 1998 murder of Silbiano Rangel and sentenced to death.
There is an agreed order that said his execution would be stayed while more DNA testing is completed.
The Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney's Office and Garza's attorneys both agreed to this, according to court records.
The agreed order states that a number of pieces of evidence, including clothing, fingernails, and hair among others, be tested.
"It's not an admission by the DA's office that he's entitled to relief," David Guinn, a Lubbock criminal defense attorney, said. "It's a good thing for the court to do. As a matter of fact, it takes a smart judge with a lot of courage to stop an execution date, but in light of recent scientific revelations and material, why not be safe? Why not make sure?"
Guinn added, "If he's a bad …

Egypt court sentences 12 IS supporters to death

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An Egyptian court sentenced to death 12 members of the Islamic State group Thursday for planning attacks against police and soldiers in the country, a judicial official said.
6 of those who were on trial are behind bars, while the rest are still at large, the official said.
They were convicted of having joined IS -- which has declared a "caliphate" in parts of Iraq and Syria under its control -- and of plotting to attack members of Egypt's police force and military.
In Egypt, death sentences are forwarded to the country's grand mufti, the official interpreter of Islamic law, who then issues a non-binding opinion.
The sentences issued will either be confirmed or commuted on September 12 by the court in the northern province of Sharkia, a court official said.
In a separate trial, 2 cousins were sentenced to three years in prison in the same province for using Facebook to promote the ideology of IS, the official added.
Source: al-monitor.com, August 28, 2015

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Nebraska group says it can stop death penalty repeal

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An organization campaigning to reinstate Nebraska's death penalty after lawmakers repealed it in May said Wednesday it has collected more than enough signatures to suspend the law before it goes into effect and place it before voters in 2016.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, which was heavily financed by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and his family, said it had gathered 166,692 signatures from all 93 of the state's counties. Nebraska's unicameral Legislature had voted to repeal capital punishment over the objection of Ricketts, becoming the 1st traditionally conservative state to do so in 42 years.
The pro-death penalty group needed roughly 57,000 valid signatures from registered voters to force a statewide referendum, and double that number to immediately halt the death penalty repeal going into effect. They appear to have exceeded the 10 % of registered voters hurdle needed to block repeal pending a November 2016 ballot measure on the issue.
"Nebraskans sent a str…