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Showing posts from April, 2016

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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…

Oldest man on death row buried in TDCJ cemetery

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Jack Smith outlived most of his attorneys, the D.A.'s, the judge, and many family and friends. So he was buried yesterday in Huntsville at Peckerwood Hill, aka the Joe Byrd Cemetery, to lay in rest with over 2000 others who died in prison but were not claimed. A few of his relatives showed up for the burial.

HUNTSVILLE - Jack Harry Smith spent most of his 78 years behind bars, much of it on death row, so it only seemed right that when the time came, he would spend eternity close to the world he knew best. Until he passed on April 8, Smith was the oldest inmate alive on Texas' death row.
Smith, his body unclaimed by family or friend after he died earlier this month, was buried Thursday in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery, joining more than 2,000 former prisoners who drew their last breaths in custody, some of them as far back as the late 1800s.
With the sun burning through the last of the morning haze, prison chaplain David Collier said…

Fight goes on after Myuran and Andrew

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When Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan faced their certain death last year, pastor Christie Buckingham remembers how they sang Bless the Lord until the end.
"(I remember) their kindness, their courage ... the way that they smiled at those about to take their lives."
She also recalls the promise she made to continue their fight against the death penalty.
Friday marks 1 year since the 2 men were executed by firing squad just after midnight or 3.25am (AEST) on the island of Nusakambangan - 10 years after being found guilty of smuggling 8.3kg of heroin out of Indonesia.
Sukumaran and Chan were among 14 drug traffickers executed in Indonesia last year, amid intensifying condemnation from human rights activists and international governments.
The pressure continues with German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressing her country's wish for Indonesia to put an end to capital punishment, during Indonesian President Joko Widodo's recent visit to Europe.
Despite this, Security Minist…

Texas Prisons Assert Right to Censor Inmates' Families on Social Media

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On the morning of April 15, Pat Hartwell drove up from her home in Houston, Texas, to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Austin, where the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which runs the state's prisons, was holding a board meeting. The board only offers a public comment period during 2 of its meetings each year, and this would be the 1st time in 2016 that the public would have a chance to air grievances or concerns about agency operations, for example, or prison conditions.
For Hartwell, a well-known anti-death penalty activist in Texas, the timing of the meeting was opportune; roughly a week earlier, word had spread among prisoners, family members, and activists that the director of the TDCJ had established a new rule forbidding any prisoner from maintaining a social media presence. Hartwell has for years maintained a Facebook page for a death row inmate she is certain is innocent, and she wanted some answers.
In a section of the 146-page Offender Orientation Handbook reserved for …

Iran: At Least 4 Executed For Drug Offences

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2 of the 4 prisoners who were transferred to solitary confinement on Wednesday 27. April were hanged yesterday morning in the Central Prison of Karaj (west of Tehran). 
According to close sources these prisoners were identified as "Mehdi Bagherzadeh" and "Esmaeil Tanabi".
Iran Human Rights (IHR) had reported about the transfer of 4 prisoners (2 brothers) to solitary confinement in preparation for execution on April 27. 
All the 4 prisoners were sentenced to death for possession and trafficking of 8 kilograms of heroin in one case.
Mehdi Bagherzadeh and his younger brother Abbas Bagherzadeh were the 2 brothers who were scheduled to be executed. 
Mehdi was executed while Abbas was together with another prisoner identified as "Farhad Esmaeili" were returned to their wards. 
Sources have reported that they remain under imminent danger of execution.
Another member of the Bagherzadeh family (Isa Bagherzadeh, another brother) was hanged 5 months ago.
Source: Ir…

Vietnam sentences Singapore man to death for trafficking heroin

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A court in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday sentenced a Singaporean man to death for trafficking 2.5 kilograms of heroin.
Lee Loke Dah, 40, was arrested at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in December 2014 with a plastic bag containing thousands of capsules. 
Further tests confirmed that the drug was heroin.
The man, who had entered the country 4 days earlier, told investigators that he stole the bag from a stranger in a hotel in District 5 and that he was not aware of the drug.
Prosecutors rejected these claims. The court found him guilty of drug trafficking.
Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is punishable by death. 
Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine also face the death penalty.
Source: Thanh Nien News, April 29, 2016
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Taiwan: Chang Ho-ling escapes execution

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The High Court yesterday commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence handed down to Chang Ho-ling, who was convicted of the murder of his wife and 2 daughters in a case that has wound through the courts for 10 years.
The ruling has sparked controversy and protests from the victims' relatives and the judiciary, along with members of the public, who believe life imprisonment is too lenient.
Chang, now 49, was found guilty of using ether to asphyxiate his wife, Tsai Ting-yu, and their 2 young daughters at their home in New Taipei City in 2006, then tampering with the crime scene to make it look like suicide through gas poisoning. After a forensic investigation pointed to murder, Chang confessed.
Chang had been carrying on an extramarital affair with a woman surnamed Su, who reportedly advised Chang to do away with his wife and daughters to start a new life with her, and in an effort to please his new lover, Chang filmed the killing of his wife for Su to watch, the courts found.

China's 'Valentine's Day' killer acquitted of 1998 murder

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A Chinese man sentenced to death for the Valentine's Day murder of his girlfriend 18 years ago has been acquitted, a court said, the latest wrongful conviction overturned in the country.
Liu Jiqiang, 52, was found guilty of strangling and stabbing his lover on February 14, 1998, earning him the notorious nickname "Valentine's Day killer" in the Chinese press.
But after spending nearly 2 decades on death row, the Higher People's Court of Jilin province in northeast China dismissed his conviction citing insufficient evidence, the court said Friday on its official Sina Weibo microblog.
Liu initially admitted to the killing, but his lawyers said his confession was obtained as a result of torture and illegal questioning, according to Xinhua news agency.
He was handed the death penalty in December 1999 with a 2-year reprieve which in China often means life in prison.
He unsuccessfully appealed his guilty verdict twice, in 2002 and 2003, according to Xinhua.
China'…

Indonesia ‘completes’ preparations for executions

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Indonesia’s attorney general announced Friday that all technical preparations for executing drug convicts have been completed, but would not disclose when the next round of inmates would be brought before the firing squad.
"Coordination and preparation have already been handled. Coordination has been completed by all parties concerned," detik.com quoted Muhammad Prasetyo as saying at his office.
“But the timing has not been determined,” he told reporters.
Authorities had earlier said that the death penalties would be implemented after the rainy season, which is predicted to end this month, or after the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, set to end in early July.
Prasetyo reiterated Friday that the first group to be executed at the prison island of Nusakambangan in Central Java would include convicts who had exhausted their legal options, but refused to name them.
He revealed, however, that a Filipina whose execution was delayed last year after her suspected recruiter surrend…

Memories of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran can help us fight the death penalty

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Immense public support surrounded the Mercy Campaign's effort to save 2 Australians from death row. We can't let the lessons learnt from that go to waste
A year on, people still approach me to talk about what they were doing and how they were feeling the night of the Indonesian executions.
The partner of an accounting firm told me how he couldn't sleep that night, and spent until dawn watching Sky news and crying.
A mobile phone wholesaler in Melbourne jumped on a last minute flight to Sydney because he heard there was a vigil in Martin Place and he wanted to be around people who cared.
Others - whose churchgoing habits were dusty - found themselves praying.
On the Mercy Campaign Facebook page, conversations went on through the night: "I can't believe this is actually happening" or "I can't believe how affected I am by this".
For the 1st part of last year, it felt like the executions were all anyone could talk about. Would Indonesia do it? Could…

Bali 9 executions: Some of Myuran Sukumaran’s last words revealed, 1 year later

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On the one-year anniversary of the of execution of Bali Nine Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, some chilling last words have been revealed. 
Before the firing squad ended his life, Sukumaran imparted his final thoughts with spiritual advisor, Reverend Christie Buckingham. 
“Do me a favor,” News Corp Australia quoted him as telling her. 
“Ask the question in a year’s time, has this made any difference? Has it made any difference in Indonesia? Has it made any difference to the way Australians feel about the death penalty? Ask this question in one year, in five years and in 10 years. Ask it to yourself, ask it to those around you and ask it to anyone who will listen. Has this made a difference either way? Has this made a difference?”
And perhaps as just a chilling revelation as Sukumaran’s last questions is that several members of the firing squad approached Buckingham to seek forgiveness, she says. 
“He pulled his mask down and said ‘Maaf, Maaf’ (the Indonesian word for sor…

Mary Jane Veloso: what happened to the woman who escaped execution in Indonesia?

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Filipina who was temporarily spared at 11th hour, as the Bali Nine pair and six others were killed, remains on death row amid uncertain future
A woman who was temporarily spared death by firing squad last year remains on death row in Indonesia with her life precariously wagered on an slow-moving court case.
Mary Jane Veloso won sympathy in her home country of the Philippines, as well as within Indonesia, after she said she was duped into smuggling drugs. And in a shock turnaround, Indonesian president Joko Widodo – known as Jokowi – delayed her killing with a temporary reprieve just hours before she was due to be executed in April 2015.
Indonesia shot dead eight others that night, including two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who fought a years-long campaign for clemency and were part of the Bali Nine heroin-smuggling ring. Four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian were also killed.
Sparing the domestic worker and mother-of-two was unexpected and several Filipino ne…

Jokowi, Be Not Proud

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Remembering Andrew and Myuran and all the others
29 April 2015 - 29 April 2016

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In Texas, Death Row Inmates Through the Eyes of a New York Artist

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A supermax prison isn’t the best place to sit for a portrait, but Peter Charlap’s subjects have no other choice.
CHRIS YOUNG, A DEATH ROW INMATE at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, is an avid chess player who can manage multiple games at once without using a board, just by calling out the moves to prisoners in neighboring cells.
Will Speer, another inmate, converted to Judaism in prison and worked tirelessly to get officials to let him wear the Star of David on a chain.
Eugene Broxton, a third inmate, became skilled in the art of origami, sending his creations to people all over the world until the mail room guards began unfolding them before they were sent out, leaving their recipients scratching their heads at flat sheets of colorful paper lined with traces of tiny folds.
“Unless you know how to do it, you can’t fold it back,” says one of those recipients, Peter Charlap, sighing. “So he stopped doing it.”
Over the past few years, Charlap has traveled to Texas to complete a series of…

6x9: A virtual experience of solitary confinement

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The Guardian's virtual reality video sends you to solitary. Could you handle it for a day? A decade?
What’s it like to spend 23 hours a day in a cell measuring 6x9 feet for days, weeks, months or even years? 
6x9 is the Guardian's first virtual reality experience, which places you inside a US solitary confinement prison cell and tells the story of the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation.
We've created a mobile app allowing you to fully experience VR on your own, with or without cardboard viewer. If you don't have a smartphone scroll down to watch the 360° video.


"Un camp de concentration se construit comme un stade ou un grand hôtel, avec des entrepreneurs, des devis, de la concurrence, sans doute des pots-de-vin.
Pas de style imposé, c’est laissé à l’imagination : style alpin, style garage, style japonais, sans style. Les architectes inventent calmement ces porches destinés à n’être franchis qu’une seule fois.
Pendant ce temps, Burger, ouvrier alle…

Few on Louisiana's death row are ever executed, largely owing to reversals, analysis finds

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Louisiana, which has led the nation in homicide rates every year since 1989, sentences plenty of murderers to death but rarely executes them, in part because a huge proportion of death verdicts are reversed on appeal, according to a new study slated to come out Thursday.
The report, to be published in the Southern University Law Center's "Journal of Race, Gender and Poverty," examined each of the 241 death sentences handed down in Louisiana over the past 30 years.
Just 28 of those sentenced to death - less than 12 % - have been executed. Meanwhile, 127 of the death verdicts, more than 1/2 the total, have been reversed, meaning that either a new trial was ordered or the death sentence was rescinded. That number includes 9 exonerations.
The "extremely high" reversal rates in parishes throughout Louisiana, combined with what political science professor Frank Baumgartner and statistician Tim Lyman call "shocking" racial discrepancies, make the state'…