Posts

Showing posts from June, 2009

FEATURED POST

Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

Image
Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

China: 8 executed

June 25, 2009: eight people sentenced to death for drug production and trafficking were executed in China.
They were identified as Wang Xilin, Lu Gang, Zhou Zhenjun, Wang Li, Li Ersa and Yan Chaomin were executed for four cases of drug production and sales. The court did not disclose the locations of the executions.
Tian Yulai was executed in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province, for trafficking. And in Quanzhou City in southeast China's Fujian Province, Liu Huiyang was executed for manufacturing narcotics in 2005.
Sources: Shanghai Daily, 26/06/2009

Troy Davis: Justices delay death row inmate's appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court delayed a decision on whether to accept an appeal from a Georgia death row inmate who has gained international support for his claims of innocence in the the murder of a Savannah police officer 2 decades ago.

Troy Davis' case has earned the support of leaders including the pope and former President Jimmy Carter.

The justices were scheduled to announce Monday whether they would take the case of Troy Davis, but no order was released. The court is expected to take up the matter again in September.

Last fall, the Supreme Court granted Davis a stay of execution 2 hours before he was to be put to death. A month later, the justices reversed course and allowed the capital punishment to proceed, but a federal appeals court issued another stay.

The high court's latest delay means Davis will continue to sit on death row.

His supporters Monday delivered about 60,000 signatures in petitions to Chatham County, Georgia, District Attorney Larry Chisolm, calling for a ne…

Iran: Mandatory death penalty for apostates scrapped

Image
Proposed amendment reportedly shot down after international outcry.

A member of Iran's Parliament reportedly revealed last week that the country's Parliamentary Committee has stricken the mandatory death penalty for those who leave Islam from proposals for an amended penal code.

Citing a BBC Persian news service report on Tuesday (June 23), United Kingdom-based Christian Solidarity International (CSW) announced on Friday (June 26) that a member of Iran's Legal and Judicial Committee of Parliament, Ali Shahrokhi, had told the Iranian state news agency (IRNA) of the decision to eliminate the mandatory death penalty amendment, which had drawn international protests.

The Parliamentary Committee had come under intense international pressure to drop clauses from the Islamic Penal Code Bill that allowed stoning and made death the mandatory punishment for apostates.

The new penal code was originally approved in September 2008 by a preliminary parliamentary vote of 196-7.

In Fridays sta…

Iran: Human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei has been arrested

Iran Human Rights, June 29: According to sources in Iran, Mohammad Mostafaei, lawyer of more than 20 minors on the death row, has been arrested by the Iranian authorities.

According to some sources he was arrested 5 days ago. We have no further details about where he is being kept or why he was arrested.

According to our sources Mr. Mostafei was arrested on Thursday June 25.

Following the last two week’s pro-democracy demonstrations, several known human rights defenders and lawyers such as Abdolfattah Soltani have been arrested in Iran.

Iran Human Rights has earlier issued warning that those arrested are at risk of torture and forced confessions.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesman of Iran Human Rights, said: "The United Nations should ask Iranian authorities to immediately release all those arrested and send a special envoy to Iran in order to guarantee their safety".

Source: IHR, June 29, 2009

California's lethal-injection plan is proven to be inhumane

Image
On Tuesday, California prison officials will hear public comment on their proposed procedures for conducting lethal-injection executions. Although officials claim their goal is to achieve humane executions, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation plans to stick with a three-drug protocol that risks just the opposite.

The protocol is so fraught with danger that it would be illegal to use to euthanize a dog or cat in this state.

It involves the administration of three drugs: first, an anesthetic; second, a drug that paralyzes the inmate; and third, potassium chloride to stop the heart.

Activists have denounced the practice of paralyzing inmates before executing them, and for good reason. Executioners are typically not qualified to administer anesthesia, let alone monitor the inmate's reaction to the drug throughout the execution. If the inmate is paralyzed and the anesthesia fails, he will feel the excruciating burn of the potassium chloride as it scorches through his veins, b…

New Mexico death penalty repeal set to take effect

Although New Mexico officially abolished the death penalty, that doesn't mean there won't be another execution in the state.

There are still 2 men on death row, their sentences untouched by the repeal and the governor unwilling to commute them. 2 other potential death cases are in the legal pipeline, awaiting trial. Conceivably, the state could end up putting someone to death a decade or 2 after capital punishment was outlawed, given the drawn-out appeals typical in such cases.

"Nonsensical," sums up Jeff Buckels, head of the capital crimes unit of the New Mexico Public Defender Department.

"It makes no sense to be seeking the death penalty in a state which has abolished the death penalty," he said.

After a decade of effort, capital punishment opponents managed to persuade the Legislature in March to replace lethal injection with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The new law applies to certain murders committed as of July 1 and made…

Senior Iranian cleric says rioters should be severely punished

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami says those involved in 'destructive acts' during postelection protests are enemies of God and 'should receive the severest of the punishments.'

A senior cleric who is close to Iran's supreme leader said in a Friday sermon that anyone who engaged in violence in protests over alleged fraud in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should receive the "severest of punishments," according to state broadcasting.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a confidant of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described the unsanctioned public gatherings and rallies as being against Islamic law.

In the sermon, he described anyone taking part in "destructive acts" as muharib, enemies of God whose annihilation by true believers is religiously permitted.

"Anyone who takes up arms, be it guns or knives, is a muharib and Islam has said that muharib should receive the severest of the punishments," said Khatami, who shares a last name with …

Iran: Danger of executions after torture and forced confession

Image
According to the Iranian daily Kayhan (close to Ali Khamenei, the Iranian authority's supreme leader) the person who took the film showing Neda Agha Soltan being killed by a bullet has been arrested and confessed participation in planning the shooting at Neda.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights, warned that many of those arrested under the pro-democracy demonstrations in Iran could be in danger of torture, forced confessions and possibly execution. He said to the Italian daily Corriere della sera: "we have entered a new phase where the Iranian authorities, by taking forced confessions is preparing further arresting and possibly execution of some of those participated in the demonstrations". He continued: "The Iranian authorities will be at the same time using these constructed TV-confessions to intimidate those who are sending pictures and reports of the demonstrations to the international media".

Emphasizing that several hundred detai…

Iranian Cleric calls for the execution of "rioters"

Image
TEHRAN (Reuters) - A hardline Iranian cleric on Friday called for the execution of "rioters" in the latest sign of the authorities' determination to stamp out opposition to the June 12 presidential election.

Iran's top legislative body, the Guardian Council, said it had found no major violations in the election, which it called the "healthiest" vote since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The council had already rejected a call for the annulment of the vote by moderate former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi, who has led mass protests since he was declared a distant second in the election behind incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"I want the judiciary to ... punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson," Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Tehran University.

Iranian state television said on Thursday eight Basij militiamen were killed by "rioters" during the protests. State media previously said 20 pe…

USA: Holder pushes for hate-crimes law; GOP unpersuaded

Bill would expand scope of federal protection against hate crimes

Eric Holder says hate crimes against certain groups, such as Hispanics, on the rise. Republicans on Senate panel dispute assertion of increase in hate crimes. Some religious groups worry law could be used to criminalize speech

Attorney General Eric Holder stepped up his call for the passage of federal hate crimes legislation Thursday, arguing that the federal government needs to take a stronger stand against criminal activity fueled by bias and bigotry.

Attorney General Eric Holder has been a vocal proponent for tougher laws regarding hate crimes.

He also sought to assure opponents that such a bill would not allow Christian clergy to be prosecuted for outspoken opposition to homosexuality.

Holder made his remarks during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is currently considering the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The bill would allow the Justice Department to provide assistance to state and lo…

Maryland: State drafts lethal injection rules

Image
The administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley took a giant step toward restoring Maryland's death penalty on Wednesday, as the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services completed draft regulations on performing executions by lethal injection.

Maryland has had a de facto death-penalty moratorium since December 2006, when the state's highest court invalidated the states execution protocols because they had not been adopted in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act.

The draft lethal-injection regulations, which must be reviewed by a legislative committee and published for public comment, comply with the high courts decision in Evans v. State, state officials said.

Completion of the draft regulations follows an unsuccessful legislative effort this year to repeal the state's death penalty, an attempt O'Malley backed. A compromise measure was passed that greatly restricts the use of capital punishment.

O'Malley praised the new law and said he had no ch…

In 98, Hints From Sotomayor on Death Penalty

Image
As a drug kingpin and his bodyguard, both black, faced the 1st death penalty trial in Manhattan since the days of the Rosenbergs, their lawyers argued that the practice of capital punishment was racist.

"We're doing what the death penalty has always done historically, which is target minority people," one of the lawyers said in 1998 as he asked a Federal District Court judge to declare the penalty unconstitutional. That judge was Sonia Sotomayor a Bronx-born woman of Puerto Rican descent who as a young lawyer had leveled much the same attack on capital punishment. And as she listened to the arguments that day, she acknowledged there were many unresolved "tensions" surrounding the death penalty.

But she flatly told the lawyers she had no power to resolve them. "I don't as a judge," she said. "They are not up to me. Ultimately, they are up to Congress and the Supreme Court."

Judge Sotomayor, of course, is now up for a seat on the Supreme …

Egyptian tycoon, ex-cop face execution

An Egyptian court on Thursday confirmed the death sentences of a business tycoon and a former police officer convicted of killing rising Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim.

In a case that has captivated Egypt and the region because of the fame of the victim and one of the defendants, a judge sentenced to death real estate mogul Hisham Talaat Moustafa and former officer Muhsen el Sukkari last month. Tamim's body was found stabbed, with her throat slit, in her apartment in the United Arab Emirates in July 2008.

The court's latest decision came after a review of the sentence by Egypt's grand mufti, the country's highest religious official. Because the two men were sentenced under Islamic law, it is widely expected they will be hanged.

The court usually seeks to get the Mufti's "advice only on any death sentence, according to the law," a legal source in Cairo told CNN.

"However, the Mufti's advice to the court is not binding at all," added the source, …

Man beheaded in Saudi Arabia

June 23, 2009: a Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry statement said that authorities beheaded Ahmed bin Ali bin Hassan in the southwestern province of Asir.

Hassan was convicted of fatally shooting compatriot Abdel-Rahman bin Dafer bin Ali in a dispute. It did not elaborate on the nature of the dispute.

According to an Associated Press count, the execution brought the number of beheadings in the kingdom this year to 43.

Source: Canadian Press, 24/06/2009

The final week of my parents' lives

Image
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg (pictured) were members of the Communist Party who were convicted of espionage for allegedly stealing atomic secrets. On June 19, 1953, they were executed--the most prominent victims of the McCarthyite campaign to crush political and social dissent.

Robert Meeropol, one of the Rosenbergs' two sons, has dedicated himself to helping provide for the children of activists who have been persecuted for their political beliefs, founding the Rosenberg Fund for Children. This year, in the days leading up to the anniversary of his parents' death on June 19, Robert wrote this diary, remembering what happened each day 56 years ago.

Monday, June 15

Have you ever wondered why anniversaries that are multiples of five or 10 are more significant milestones than those that are multiples of other numbers? I wonder if we had six fingers, instead of five, whether a 24th wedding anniversary might be a bigger deal than the 20th, and if we had seven fingers a 49th might be muc…

Togo's parliament votes unanimously to abolish the death penalty

June 23, 2009: Togo's parliament voted unanimously to abolish the death penalty.
The vote was witnessed by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has been campaigning for a global moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its total abolition.

“The Togolese parliament has raised a voice for justice and human dignity,” Zapatero said. And Justice Minister Kokou Tozoun said: "I think that it's the best decision that we took in this year... we don't have the right to give death to someone if we know that death is not a good thing to give."

Togo stopped applying the death penalty more than three decades ago. The last executions of people sentenced to death date back to 1978 and the last death sentence was handed down in 2003. As of June 23, 2009, there were at least six convicts on death row.

Sources: Xinhua, 23/06/2009; BBC, 24/06/2009

Vietnam voted in favor of dropping the death penalty on eight crimes

June 19, 2009: Vietnam voted in favor of dropping the death penalty on eight crimes.

The amendments to the Criminal Code, passed at the closing day of the National Assembly's month-long session, will take place from January 1, 2010.

Those convicted of rape, fraud for appropriating property, smuggling, making and trafficking in counterfeit money and bonds, using drugs, giving bribes, hijacking or piracy and destroying military weapons will be spared, parliament said in a statement (the proceedings were closed to foreign reporters). Those already convicted of capital crimes and awaiting the death penalty will have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

Those already convicted of capital crimes and awaiting the death penalty will have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

Seventy-five percent of deputies in the communist-dominated National Assembly endorsed the amendments to the penal code. The parliament removed using drugs from the list of crimes punishable by death, b…

Saudi Arabia: two Saudis executed

June 22, 2009: two Saudi Arabian men have been recently executed for rape, murder.

The first Saudi Arabian man was beheaded on June 21 in the central city of Unaizah after being convicted of kidnapping and raping a boy. Faleh al-Mozaiberi left the boy in the desert after raping him, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency. The boy's fate was not disclosed.

The second Saudi Arabian man was beheaded on June 18 by the sword in the southwestern region of Asir after being convicted of murdering a compatriot. Ali bin Gheithan al-Harithi was found guilty of stabbing Abdullah bin Namshan al-Harithi to death in a dispute, said a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

Sources: Agence France Presse, 18/06/2009; Agence France Presse, 21/06/2009

Iran: six men executed

June 22, 2009: six men have been recently executed in Iran for drug trafficking, murder.

The website of Iran’s State-run television said that two men were hanged on June 20 in a prison in southeastern city of Zahedan for drug trafficking. It gave no further details.

Two men convicted of drug trafficking were executed on June 17. A report in the Vatan Emrouz newspaper identified the men as Hamid A and Ali A. They were hanged in a prison in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

Iran hanged two men convicted of murder on June 16. A report in the Vatan Emrouz newspaper identified the two as Mohammad Reza F and Moslem Gh. They were hanged in a prison in the city of Ahvaz.

Sources: Agence France Presse, 20/06/2009

Research shows no connection between death penalty, deterrence

New research released June 16 [2009] concludes criminology experts do not believe the death penalty effectively deters criminals from committing murder.

In a report from Northwestern University School of Law's Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, researchers argued data show the death penalty does not deter homicide more than long-term imprisonment.

Capital punishment as "deterrence has always been controversial and we simply wanted to try to resolve the issue by learning from those that know most about it," said Michael Radelet, who released the information.

"There has been some research that shows a connection between deterrence and the death penalty, but all of that research has been discredited. I think the data that we gathered pretty much settles the issue," he told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

Frank McNeirney, national coordinator of Catholics Against Capital Punishment, said the new study reaffirmed his beliefs. McNeirney said capital…

An ethical "line in the sand"

Image
Dr. Marc Stern drew an ethical "line in the sand" prohibiting all 700 health-care staff members in Washington's prisons from participating in the death penalty. Little did Stern know how involved his staffers were in the planning for a lethal injection.

About two years ago, Dr. Marc Stern tripped over a jarring line in Washington's death-penalty policy: As head doctor for the state's 16,000 prison inmates, he had to ensure the state's lethal-injection table was in working order before each execution.

"This is ludicrous," Stern, then medical director for the Department of Corrections (DOC), remembers telling his boss. "I can't do this. I won't do this. I'm not allowed to do this."

That was the beginning of Stern's unlikely evolution into a hero of the anti-death-penalty movement. He quit the DOC late last year on the eve of a scheduled execution, formally accused the DOC of illegally obtaining the lethal-injection drugs and, la…

China: Beijing to adopt lethal injection

Image
By the end of the year all criminals sentenced to death in Beijing will receive a lethal injection instead of being executed by gunshot.

A lethal injection site has been built next to the city's No 1 detention house, which houses the majority of the city's condemned, in Dougezhuang town, about 20 km northwest of downtown Beijing, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

The Beijing Municipal High People's Court has already made preparations for the change, including allocation of staff and boosting technical capacity.

It will soon start training judicial police, who will deliver the prisoners and administer the injections, and also medical staff who will supervise the use of the drugs as well as monitor and confirm the deaths.

The new execution site is equipped with rooms for execution, observation and the storage of bodies. The execution bed, injection pump and disinfection facilities are all specially produced, the report said.

Hu Yunteng, director general of SPC's research…

Iran prosecutor warns of death penalty for violence

Image
An Iranian provincial prosecutor has warned that the "few elements" behind post-election unrest could face the death penalty under Islamic law, an Iranian news agency reported on Wednesday.



Mohammadreza Habibi, prosecutor-general in the central province of Isfahan, said these elements were controlled from outside Iran and urged them to stop "criminal activities," Fars News Agency said.

"We warn the few elements controlled by foreigners who try to disrupt domestic security by inciting individuals to destroy and to commit arson that the Islamic penal code for such individuals waging war against God is execution," Habibi said.

"So before they are stricken with the law's anger they should return to the nation's embrace and avoid criminal measures and activities," he said.

It was not clear if his warning applied to just Isfahan or the country as a whole.

Source: Reuters, June 19, 2009

U.S.: Court finds convicts have no right to test DNA evidence

Image
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court said Thursday that convicts have no constitutional right to test DNA evidence in hopes of proving their innocence long after they were found guilty of a crime.

The decision may have limited impact because the federal government and 47 states already have laws that allow convicts some access to genetic evidence. Testing has led to the exoneration of at least 232 people who had been found guilty of murder, rape and other violent crimes.

The court ruled 5-4, with its conservative justices in the majority, against an Alaska man who was convicted in a brutal attack on a prostitute 16 years ago.

William Osborne won a federal appeals court ruling granting him access to a blue condom that was used during the attack. Osborne argued that testing its contents would firmly establish his innocence or guilt.

In parole proceedings, however, Osborne has admitted his guilt in a separate bid for release from prison.

The high court reversed the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit C…

WHERE IS MY VOTE?

Image
Let Iran know that the global community is monitoring their every move!

Click here to take action now!

Alabama executes Jack Trawick

Twice-convicted murderer Jack Trawick died by lethal injection tonight [June 11, 2009], as relatives of the 2 murder victims watched.

Trawick, 62, who also had claimed to have committed another Birmingham area murder and 2 in the Pacific northwest, was executed at 6:17 p.m. for abducting, stabbing and strangling Stephanie Gach, 21, of Irondale on the night of Oct. 9, 1992. He had been on death row at Holman Correctional Facility since 1994, and no legal efforts were made to stop his execution.

In his final statement, Trawick said: "I wish to apologize to the people whom I have hurt and I ask for their forgiveness. I don't deserve it but I do ask for it."

Stephanie Gach's sister Heather watched Trawick die. So did Donna Middlebrooks, sister of Aileen Pruitt, 26, whom Trawick was convicted of stabbing to death a few months before Gach's death. Trawick had been sentenced to life without parole for that killing.

Trawick's witnesses were 2 of his cousins, Rebecca and …