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Showing posts from January, 2016

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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…

Condemned murderer Brandon Astor Jones loses another appeal

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An appellate court on Friday rejected another attempt by Brandon Astor Jones to stop his execution scheduled for Tuesday for the 1979 murder of a Cobb County convenience store manager.
Late in the afternoon, a judge in Butts County, which is where Georgia's execution chamber is located, said the issues raised in Jones' appeal were decided years ago and cannot be revisited.
Jones' lawyers argued in the appeal that it's rare for a murderer to be sentenced to die if the crime that made the case eligible for the death sentence was armed robbery. A death sentence can be given only in certain circumstances, such as when certain felonies were committed at the same time as the murder, if the crime was exceptionally horrendous, or if a law enforcement officer was killed.
"Even at the time of Mr. Jones' original sentence in 1979, a death sentence for a murder that occurred in those circumstances was an anomaly," his lawyers wrote.
"Since the time of Mr. Jones…

U.S.: The Death Penalty and Execution Drugs

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Executions in the United States have been on a fairly steady decline in recent years, dropping to 28 last year - the lowest since 1991. A peak of 98 came in 1999.
Difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs after many manufacturers stopped selling their products for use in executions has made it tough for some states to execute existing death row inmates. 
Other reasons for the decline include better legal representation for those facing the death penalty, life-in-prison sentences without parole, and the high cost of death penalty prosecutions.
Georgia is set to execute its oldest death row inmate Tuesday
Brandon Astor Jones, 72, was convicted in the 1979 killing of convenience store manager Roger Tackett. Van Roosevelt Solomon, who was also convicted and sentenced to death for the killing, was executed in Georgia's electric chair in February 1985.
Here's a look at some death penalty facts and figures.
WHO ALLOWS THE DEATH PENALTY?
Capital punishment is legal in 31 states. B…

Serial human trafficker executed in China after abducting 22 children

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A man has been executed in China for the abduction and trafficking of 22 children over the space of 5 years.
China's top court, The Supreme's People's Court, announced today that Tan Yongzhi had been 'condemned to death' in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, reports the People's Daily Online.
Tan kidnapped the children between February 2008 and April 2013 from areas that stretched across south-west China's Yunnan Province to the central area of Henan.
According to the report, the court said Tan's actions and the large number of children he abducted seriously damaged children's rights, which is why he was executed.
The authorities have been unable to locate the birth parents of all the abducted children.
The exact date of the sentencing or execution has not been released.
There has always been a heavy penalty for those convicted of abducting a child in China, and the death penalty is still prominent.
The country has intensified its crackdown on trafficking …

Saudi Arabia executes another prisoner, bringing to 55 number of convicts put to death this year

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Saudi Arabia on Thursday executed one of its citizens for murder, bringing to 55 the number of convicts put to death this year.
Authorities in the southwestern region of Aseer carried out the death sentence against Owaidhah al-Saadi, the interior ministry said in a statement.
A court found him guilty of shooting dead another Saudi following a dispute, it said.
Most executions in Saudi Arabia are done by beheading with a sword.
The kingdom on January 2 executed 47 people in a single day for "terrorism".
According to an AFP tally, Saadi is among 8 other locals and foreigners put to death this year.
New York-based Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged the country to abolish its "ghastly" beheadings.
"Saudi Arabia made positive changes for women and foreign workers in 2015, but these steps were overshadowed by its continued use of cruel punishments such as flogging and beheading," HRW's Sarah Leah Whitson said as the watchdog released its 2016 world repo…

Pakistan: Death row convict sent to gallows in Mianwali

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A death row convict was hanged in Mianwali Central Jail on Thursday.
According to details, Mumrez had been convicted in a double murder case. 
He had killed one Fateh Khan and his son Amir in 2005 over a marriage feud. 
His execution was carried out early in the morning.
Pakistan has carried out over 330 executions of criminals and militants since lifting a moratorium on the death penalty in 2014. 
The National Action Plan (NAP) was unveiled to curb militancy after Taliban assailants gunned down more than 150 people, most of them children, at Peshawar's Army Public School on December 16, 2014.
In accordance with the NAP, the 6-year moratorium on the country's death penalty was lifted and the constitution amended to allow military courts to try those accused of carrying out attacks.
The army has launched the Operation Zarb-e-Azb in a bid to wipe out militant bases in North Waziristan tribal area and bring an end to the bloody decade-long insurgency that has cost Pakistan thous…

Arizona Enlists Major Law Firm To Import Execution Drugs From India

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National law firm Alston & Bird is fighting the FDA, asking it to release execution drugs that Arizona imported from India. The state has said it will sue if the FDA doesn't do so.
The Arizona Department of Corrections has enlisted the help of a national law firm in its fight against the federal government to import execution drugs, BuzzFeed News has learned.
Alston & Bird, an Atlanta-based law firm with more than 700 lawyers and offices across the country, has taken on representation of the department in its fight against the Food and Drug Administration, which has detained 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental since this past summer that were slated for delivery to the department.
Arizona, Texas, and Nebraska purchased the drug from a man in India named Chris Harris - a man without a pharmaceutical background. Harris has been the subject of ongoing BuzzFeed News coverage.
The FDA warned Arizona and the other states that importing the drug would be illegal, as it is an unappr…

Texas prosecutor who sent man to death row for crime he didn’t commit seeks to keep law license

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A lawyer for Charles Sebesta, the ex-prosecutor who secured the wrongful death sentence of Anthony Graves, told a panel of the State Bar of Texas on Friday that he should not be disbarred based on technicalities in the rules that govern lawyer discipline.
In June, the Texas State Bar revoked the law license of Sebesta, the former Burleson County district attorney, finding that he had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct in Graves’ wrongful conviction.
Graves was sentenced to death in 1994 and spent 18 years behind bars, including 12 on death row, for a fiery multiple murder. He was close to execution twice.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Graves’ conviction in 2010. The court found that Sebesta secured Graves’ conviction through several instances of prosecutorial wrongdoing, including withholding key evidence and suborning false testimony.
Sebesta appealed the disbarment, arguing that in 2007 the agency had already ruled that there was no cause to disbar him in resp…

Georgia set to execute oldest inmate on state's death row

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ATLANTA — Prison officials are getting ready to execute the state’s oldest inmate currently on death row. Some are calling his decades in jail an affront on the justice system.
Brandon Jones was sentenced to death in 1979 for the killing of convenience store manager Roger Tackett.
At 72, he is the oldest inmate in the history of Georgia’s death row.
Jones’ first death sentence vacated in 1989. After decades of appeals, he is now set to be executed on Tuesday.
The son of Jones' co-defendant, Van Roosevelt Solomon, sat down with Channel 2’s Carl Willis to talk about the execution.
Zuberi Solomon’s father received a much swifter punishment, being executed back in 1985 for the murder of Tackett.
"It's going to bring a closure in a chapter in a sense that the person who did this finally gets his justice," Solomon said.
Solomon believes Jones was the ringleader in the crime and led his father down a path of destruction.
"How is a murderer still living when my fathe…

Delaware House Rejects Legislation to Abolish Death Penalty

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An effort to abolish Delaware's death penalty failed in the state House on Thursday, but proponents of the measure say they will continue fighting until capital punishment is outlawed.
The legislation, which would not apply to inmates currently on death row, received 16 votes, short of the 21 needed for passage. Twenty-three lawmakers voted against the bill, which Democratic Gov. Jack Markell has said he would sign.
"I had hoped that after giving the arguments careful consideration, the House would realize, as I did, that the death penalty is an instrument of imperfect justice," Markell said in a prepared statement. "I understand that it is an incredibly difficult issue, and I respect all viewpoints. While this was not the time to repeal the death penalty, I believe that time will come."
Supporters of the bill, which cleared the Senate last year by a single vote, said they would try to resurrect the measure after a five-week break for budget committee meetings…

Utah: Death penalty bill would include fatal child trafficking

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Salt Lake City — (KUTV) A new death penalty bill is making its way through the Utah Legislature.
Rep. Paul Ray, who made waves last year with his successful bill reinstating the firing squad, is sponsoring House Bill 136. It would make aggravated human trafficking a capital offense if a child dies in the process of being trafficked for forced labor or sex.
"If we really want a deterrent to it, you have to take this step," Ray told 2News.
Ray's bill would open the death penalty to anyone who was involved in trafficking that child - not just the person responsible for the child's death.
"Whether you're the one that abducted the child or coerced the child or you're the one that was pimping the child at the time, you're potentially going to face the death penalty," said Ray.
It's unclear how many times - if any - a child trafficking death has actually happened in Utah. Ray couldn't cite a case, and the Utah Attorney General's office sai…

China Executes Tajik National For Drug Trafficking

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Chinese authorities have executed a Tajik national convicted of drug trafficking.
Tajik Foreign Ministry officials told RFE/RL that Hasan Yusufov, 51, was executed early in the morning on January 28.
Tajik Embassy representatives were allowed to meet with Yusufov before his execution, the officials said.
Yusufov was arrested in Urumqi, the capital of China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, in 2011 and was charged with drug trafficking.
He was later found guilty and sentenced to death.
All attempts by the Tajik Embassy to overturn the death sentence were fruitless, the Foreign Ministry officials said, adding that talks were under way to bring Yusufov's body home to Tajikistan.
Tajik officials said earlier that 16 Tajik citizens were currently in China's prison system, 4 of whom are on death row while 5 are serving life terms.
Source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, January 28, 2016
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Florida experts offer fixes to flawed death penalty law

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The Florida Legislature got direct but conflicting advice Wednesday on how to fix a death penalty sentencing system ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee heard testimony from prosecutors, public defenders, retired judges and death penalty experts. All suggested how the state should react to the high court's Jan. 12 decision in Hurst vs. Florida that said the advisory role juries play in death penalty cases is unconstitutional.
But most testimony focused on an issue that was not part of the court's decision: whether Florida juries should be unanimous in recommending death sentences. Every expert except state prosecutors urged unanimity, and some warned that without it, Florida's deeply wounded death penalty law will remain under sustained legal attack.
"This is your opportunity," said O.H. "Bill" Eaton Jr., a retired circuit judge and nationally recognized death penalty expert. "If you fix those pro…

South Carolina: 600 potential jurors to be called for state's case against Dylann Roof

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The Charleston County Clerk of Court will call 600 potential jurors as attorneys work to seat a jury for the state's case against Emanuel AME Church mass shooting suspect Dylann Roof.
The pool of potential jurors will report on June 28, some 2 weeks before the start of the July 11 trial, for questionnaires and basic qualifications. Then, the jurors not excluded in that initial round will report to court starting July 11 in groups of 20 until a full jury is seated for Roof's trial.
Meanwhile, attorneys are finalizing the questionnaires.
The court told attorneys in a separate filing that any changes to the jury survey must be submitted by Feb. 15. Two day later, attorneys have to complete any motions related to the surveys.
In June, the court will let the defense and the state know which jurors can be excused, adding that a hearing could be held on the excusing of jurors on June 13.
Attorneys have to file all pre-trial motions by June 14. The hearings on the pre-trial motions w…

"It's time for New Hampshire to abolish the death penalty"

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Several years ago, on a hot July night, a little girl named Elizabeth Knapp was raped and murdered in Contoocook, N.H.
The mother's live-in boyfriend, Richard Buchanan, became the prime suspect and was charged with 1st-degree murder. 
This quickly became a highly publicized case and the N.H. attorney general was being pressured in the press, and by members of the legislature to upgrade the charge to capital murder and seek the death penalty. As a public defender, I was assigned to represent Mr. Buchanan.
The evidence against Buchanan seemed overwhelming. This little girl was raped and murdered just feet away from her mother's bedroom. She was sleeping virtually inches away from her sister in a very small cluttered apartment. It seemed impossible that a stranger could have entered the home and not wakened anyone. There were no signs of forced entry. And to make matters worse, after over seven hours of intense police interrogation, Elizabeth's mother told the police that sh…

Firing squads, electrocution; options for Mississippi's death penalty

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Attorney General Jim Hood outlined his legislative priorities Wednesday. During a news conference he outlined his focus on better laws for child victims and child trafficking. And when it came to the death penalty, he wants options so he can carry out the will of the court.
In possibly the most controversial initiative, Hood told reporters he wants to have alternatives to the death penalty if the drugs become unavailable or lethal injection itself was declared unconstitutional.
"In case somehow there is a lethal injection declaration that it's unconstitutional or something, we would have alternative means available in law such as nitrogen hypoxia. These are all alternatives, fallback positions such as execution by a firing squad," said Hood.
According to deathpenaltyinfo.org, 3 states have recently passed laws allowing for alternative execution methods if lethal injection drugs are unavailable.
Oklahoma's law, allows for the use of nitrogen gas asphyxiation. Tenness…

Missouri Senate committee votes to abolish death penalty

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A coalition of Republicans and Democrats voted Tuesday to send a bill repealing Missouri's death penalty to the state Senate for debate.
The measure passed the Senate General Laws and Pensions Committee on a 4-3 vote with support from 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats. The measure will head to the full Senate, which has not debated a bill to repeal the death penalty in decades.
"The death penalty isn't going to change without discussion," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial. "It's important we keep discussion open and allow everyone to share their opinions in order to make a change."
The bill also had the support of the committee's chairman, Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.
Also voting for the measure were the committee's 2 Democrats, Sen. Joe Keaveny of St. Louis and Sen. Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur. The other 3 Republicans on the committee - Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Maryville, Sen. Bob Onder, R-St. Charles, and Sen. Dave Schatz, R-…

Indonesia: Pakistan Nationals Among Eight Nabbed With 100 Kgs of Drugs

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Jakarta. The National Narcotics Agency, or BNN, has arrested eight men, including four Pakistan nationals, with around 100 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine worth billions of rupiah in a drug bust at a warehouse in Jepara, Central Java on Wednesday (27/1).
The arrests were made following a tip-off from Yogyakarta and Central Java custom officials after suspicious packages were delivered from Tanjung Mas Port in Central Java capital Semarang to a warehouse belonging to a furniture company identified as Jepara Jaya Internasional.
The Pakistan Nationals, identified as Faiq, Amran Malik, Riaz and Toriq, allegedly smuggled 100 kilograms of drugs by hiding it inside power generator units, BNN chief Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso told reporters on Thursday (28/1), as quoted by Detik.com.
Four other suspects — Yulian, Tommy, Kristiadi and Didit — were arrested in three separate locations in Semarang and Jepara, Budi said, adding that one of them was a village head.
The anti-narcotics agency is st…

Six Gulf countries informed of Indonesia domestic workers ban

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Manama: Indonesia has banned its citizens from working as domestic helpers in 19 countries in the Middle East, including the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The ban was decided on July 1, 2015, but the Middle East countries were formally informed about it on January 20, Saudi daily Al Riyadh reported, without giving further details.
In May, reports in Indonesia said the country was planning to impose the ban in a bid to protect its citizens from abuses and inadequate labour laws in Middle East countries.
Indonesian manpower minister Hanif Dhakiri reportedly said that there were "many problems" with Indonesians working abroad related to "labour norms and human rights violations.”
However, in October, reports said the ban of the helpers would be temporary after
Muhammad Iqbal, the Foreign Ministry’s Director of Indonesian Nation Protection and Legal Institutions, said in the Saudi capital that the ministry was working on reorganizing the deployme…