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Showing posts from June, 2012

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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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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…

Iran: Two hanged in public near Tehran

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Iran Human Rights, June 28: Two prisoners were hanged publicly in Robat Karim (near Tehran) early this morning Thursday June 28.
According to the Mehr news agency one of the prisoners was convicted of drug trafficking while the other prisoner was convicted of rape. The prisoners were hanged in Davoudieh square of this city in fron of several hundred people.
At least 12 people have been hanged publicly in June 2012 in Iran.
Three of the United Nation’s Special Rapporteurs published earlier today a statement condemning the executions in Iran. The statement also underscored the high number of public executions in Iran saying:  “Executions in public add to the already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty and can only have a dehumanizing effect on the victim and a brutalizing effect on those who witness the execution”.
Source: Iran Human Rights, June 28, 2012

Photos of the execution (source: Iran-Resist)









Arizona executes Samuel Lopez

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A convicted murderer who challenged the fairness of Arizona's clemency board and won a temporary reprieve was executed on Wednesday for raping, beating and stabbing a woman to death in 1986.
Samuel Villegas Lopez, 49, was pronounced dead at 10:37 a.m. local time at the state prison complex in Florence, about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix, state officials said.
His execution was the first in which witnesses watched, via closed-circuit TV, the insertion of the catheters that deliver the fatal drug pentobarbital.
Attorneys for inmates in prior executions condemned the practice of inserting catheters into the prisoners' groins. Officials said the executioners had found it difficult to find suitable veins in the arms and legs.
In earlier executions, witnesses only saw the prisoner after the catheters had been inserted. Lopez was sentenced to death in 1987 for raping 59-year-old Estafana Holmes and stabbing her to death in a violent, drawn-out assault at her Phoenix apartment.
The …

Indonesia Moving to Reduce Death Row Population by Increasing Rate of Executions

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(6/25/2012) The Bali Post quoted the National Chief Prosecutors office as confirming that prosecutors in Banten (West Java) and Jakarta are making preparations for a suden surge of executions of prisoners now under sentence of death in Indonesia.
A Junior Chief Prosecutor, Hamzah Tadja, confirmed steps are in play that will soon bring 20 people on death row in the two locales before a firing squad.
The numbers slated for death are 3 in Banten and 17 in Jakarta. While confirming the preparations are ongoing, Hamzah refused to give a time or a place for the coming executions.
“I am not allowed to tell you (the time of the planned executions). Later, when it’s time, you’ll know,” Hamzah explained on Monday, June 25, 2012.
He added that he was unable to provide complete data on the total number of people now sitting on death row across Indonesia, because local prosecutors have yet to file formal reports on the actual number of those under a sentence of death who have exhausted all possib…

Arizona inmate Samuel Lopez to be executed in new open process

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FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) - Witnesses expect to be able to see prison officials inject a lethal drug into a condemned inmate for the first time in Arizona history on Wednesday, when the state is scheduled to execute its fourth prisoner of the year.
Arizona opened up the process after a federal judge recently sided with The Associated Press and other news organizations in Idaho to allow witnesses full viewing access to lethal injections.
Until now, witnesses from the news media, the state and victims' family members walked into the death chamber at the state prison in Florence after the inmates had been injected and covered with a sheet up to their chest or neck. Once the witnesses were in place, the drugs then coursed through the inmates' veins.
Now witnesses will see the actual injection, something that defense attorneys sought in an effort to ensure inmates don't experience any unnecessary pain.
Lopez was sentenced to die for the brutal rape and murder of a 59-year-old Phoen…

Saudis to behead joy-rider for hit-and-run incident

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A Saudi court sentenced a middle-aged joy-rider to death by beheading for accidentally killing 2 people while performing a car stunt near the capital Riyadh, the Saudi newspaper Al Watan reported on Tuesday.
A pastime known as “drifting,” in which drivers make their cars spin and skid at high speed, is popular among Saudi men with few options for entertainment in a conservative kingdom where cinemas do not exist and mixing between unrelated men and women is forbidden.
Al Watan reported that the defendant, which it said identified himself as “Mutannish” – “he who ignores” in Arabic, struck and killed two men while performing the thrill-seeking stunt and fled the scene before being arrested.
“The court of Onaiza handed down a sentence to kill the drifter ‘mutannish’ by beheading as punishment for his heinous deed and to deter others who tamper with the nation’s security,” the report stated.
Al Watan did not say when the sentence would be carried out. A Justice Ministry spokesman could …

UK doctors vote to end to use of medicines in executions

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The British Medical Association’s annual meeting today called for an end to the use of medicines in executions, and controls on the distribution and export of drugs used for this purpose.
The conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion calling on the BMA to “work with relevant international organisations (including the WMA and WHO) to prevent the export and use of pharmaceuticals for the purpose of execution.”
The motion was proposed by Dr. Timothy Crocker-Buque, Chair of the North Thames Regional Junior Doctors Committee, during the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting in Bournemouth.
Recent months have seen key execution drugs in short supply in the USA. As a result, American death rows have increasingly turned to foreign suppliers to provide the ingredients necessary for the lethal injection ‘cocktail’ used to execute prisoners.
Drugs imported for the purpose of executions are not tested or verified by the US Food and Drug Administration. As such, there can be no guarante…

UAE: Briton Sentenced to Death for Selling Pot

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June 25, 2012: The Foreign Office confirmed a young British man was sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates for selling marijuana to an undercover officer.
The 21-year-old man's name was not released, The Independent reported.
He was tried and convicted in Abu Dhabi with a 19-year-old Syrian who received the same sentence.
News media in the UAE reported that the mother of the Syrian comforted the British man's mother after the sentence was handed down. The pair allegedly sold $400 worth of marijuana to a police officer posing as a buyer.
Pauline Crowe of Prisoners Abroad, a charity based in London, suggested an appeal has a good chance of success.
"If the sentence has just been passed, the dust will settle. Then if there is an appeal process; it is likely that the Government will support that," she told the Independent.
Crowe said the case is a reminder that travelers need to be aware of local laws, which can be far harsher outside of Europe.
At the moment, a…

North Korea: Four refugees deported by China publicly executed

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June 25, 2012: North Korea has publicly executed four refugees who were repatriated by China and sent 40 others to its notorious prison camps, a South Korean activist said.
China has repatriated 44 fugitives from its communist neighbor in recent months, said Kim Heung-Kwang, who heads NK Intellectuals Solidarity, a Seoul-based defectors’ group.
Four of them were executed and 40 sent to camps for political prisoners, he told a seminar.
South Korean rights groups say there are six political prison camps in the North holding around 200,000 detainees.
Kim said he had obtained his information from a source inside the North, but gave no details.
The South’s unification ministry, which is in charge of cross-border affairs, declined to comment.
Tens of thousands of North Koreans looking to escape hunger or repression in their communist homeland have fled in recent years. Virtually all cross the border to China, which repatriates those fugitives it catches.
Beijing says they are economic migr…

Saudi Arabia: Five Executed for Murder and Drugs

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June 26, 2012: Saudi authorities beheaded four of its citizens for murder and a Syrian national for drug smuggling, the interior ministry said.
Three Saudi nationals were executed in the kingdom's eastern Qatif region for stabbing and then shooting to death an Indian, Kohimo Ahmad, after robbing the shop where he worked, the ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.
Hussein bin Ahmad Shweikhat, Abdel Aziz bin Hasan al-Maatouq and Hussein bin Ibrahim al-Maatouq were beheaded after the three were found guilty of having stabbed and then shot Ahmad with an automatic rifle.
In a separate case, Khaled bin Saeed al-Asmari, was executed in the town of Abhaa in the kingdom's southern region of Asir for stabbing to death fellow Saudi, Abdullah bin Saad al-Masmaa, after a dispute, the ministry said.
And William Hatoum, a Syrian, was executed in the northern region of Jawf after being found guilty of smuggling drugs into the ultra-conservative kingdom, it said.
Hatou…

China executes 3 Taiwanese for drug trafficking

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Beijing: China executed three Taiwanese drug smugglers on Tueday as UN observed International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
Chen Tianlu, Xu Futai and Wang Zhenzong, all hailing from Taiwan, were executed in Zhangzhou in east China's Fujian province after being convicted of smuggling a popular club drug across the Taiwan Strait.
The executions were carried out after the Supreme People's Court approved their death sentences, officials with the Intermediate Court of Zhangzhou said.
The executions coincide with the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking being observed by United Nations.
The three men were convicted of smuggling hundreds of kilograms of ketamine, a drug popular in Taiwan's nightclubs, from Fujian to Taiwan by boat from 2009 to 2010.
Click here to read the full article
Source: zeenews.com, June 26, 2012

Indian president defends record death row pardons

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As India's first woman president ends her term, she is being criticized by the media for being overzealous in granting clemency to nearly three dozen convicts on death row. President Pratibha Patil has defended her choices, insisting she "took well considered decisions" after taking the advice of the home minister.
India's outgoing president has defended herself against media criticism that she went on a "mercy overdrive" during her term by granting clemency to nearly three dozen convicts on death row.
Pratibha Patil, who became India's first woman president in 2007 and leaves office next month, commuted 35 death sentences to life imprisonment during her five years in the post -- more than any other head of state before her.
The Indian media has generally been critical of her record on the issue, questioning why clemency was deemed appropriate in some cases involving murder, rape and child abduction.
"President Pratibha Patil goes on mercy overdriv…

US Supreme Court Rules Against Mandatory Life Without Parole for Children

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A message for Alabama, Arkansas, and the entire United States: a sentencing scheme of mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders (JLWOP) is cruel and unusual punishment. That’s what the Supreme Court said today when it ruled in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs that such sentencing schemes violate the Eight Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In these cases, the Court extended its reasoning in Graham v. Florida, in which it previously ruled against JLWOP in non-homicide cases, to children convicted of homicide. The decision does not mean that a child can never be sentenced to life without parole, although the Court strongly suggested that such sentences should be rare. It simply means that the sentencing judge must have the opportunity to consider age and circumstance when handing down a punishment.
Evan Miller was 14-years-old when he and an older boy used drugs and alcohol given to them by a middle-aged man; then, while intoxicat…

Saudi beheads citizen for murder

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40 executions in kingdom so far this year.
Saudi authorities beheaded on Monday one of its citizens after he was convicted of shooting dead 2 fellow Saudis, the interior ministry announced in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.
Musfer Bin Atallah Al Jaeed shot dead Ahmad Bin Mayud Al Sawat and Fares Bin Masud Al Sawat after a dispute, the ministry said.
Al Jaeed was beheaded in the the western province of Taef.
His beheading brings to 40 the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on official reports.
Under the AFP count, at least 76 people were beheaded in 2011, while rights group Amnesty International put the number of executions last year at 79.
The death penalty in Saudi Arabia applies to a wide range of offences including rape, apostasy, armed robbery, homosexuality and drug trafficking, as well as murder, as stipulated by Sharia law.
Source: Agence France-Presse, June 25, 2012

Ruling could affect Nebraska death penalty law

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A Friday ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court striking down that state's execution law could affect Nebraska's use of the death penalty.
The court, in a split decision, agreed with 10 death row inmates who said the Arkansas constitution says only its Legislature can set execution policy, an authority state lawmakers gave its Correction Department in 2009.
Nebraska death-row inmate Michael Ryan makes the same argument in an appeal pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court. He says Nebraska lawmakers were wrong in 2009 to give the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services the authority to set the state’s lethal injection protocol when use of the electric chair was abolished.
And while the Arkansas ruling has no direct bearing on Nebraska, it shows the argument -- which Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning's office has called frivolous -- has merit.
In the Arkansas court's majority opinion, Justice Jim Gunter wrote: "It is evident to this court that the Legislat…

Iran: Alcohol drinkers sentenced to death

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The Khorasan justice department has confirmed the death penalty for 2 individuals who were caught drinking alcohol for the 3rd time.
ISNA reports that Hojjatoleslam Hassan Shariati, the head of the Khorasan justice department, told a press conference: “The execution sentence for the 2 people who had been caught using alcoholic beverages has been confirmed and is now in process.”
He added: “We will not show mercy in alcoholic beverage offences and we will sentence the offenders to the harshest letter of the law.”
In 2007, in an unprecedented move, the Tehran criminal court sentenced an alcoholic to death. He had been caught offending for the fourth time; however, he was later acquitted.
The judge in Tehran had stipulated that according to the Islamic penal code, if an individual is flogged twice for alcohol offences, the third offence could receive the death penalty.
Unofficial reports indicate that consumption of alcoholic beverages is on the rise in Iran.
Shargh Newspaper recently r…

Uganda says gays now free to meet

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Responding to growing international criticism of anti-gay efforts in Uganda, the government said in a statement Friday that it does not discriminate against people “of a different sexual orientation.’’
“No government official is (supposed) to harass any section of the community and everybody in Uganda enjoys the freedom to lawfully assemble and associate freely with others,’’ the statement said.
It was signed by Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo, the official accused by gay activists of orchestrating a hate campaign that includes breaking up gay conferences and threatening to expel civil society groups he says promote homosexuality in the conservative east African country.
This is the first time the government is making a statement that appears to recognize the rights of gay people in Uganda, where most homosexuals remain closeted for fear of attacks, and it seemed to take even the activists by surprise.
“I think we’ve really challenged Lokodo now, as this statement shows,’’ said Frank Mug…

Vietnamese student given death penalty for drug smuggling

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The Supreme People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday increased the sentence of a 23-year-old student convicted of drug smuggling from life in prison to death.
Tran Ha Duy, a former student of Hong Bang University from Lam Dong Province, received the death penalty for smuggling a total of 7.5 kilogram of crystal methamphetamine (ice) into Vietnam beginning in 2010.
At the court of first instance in March, Duy was sentenced to life imprisonment for smuggling the drug from Benin and Malaysia into Vietnam between October of 2010 and July the following year.
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office appealed that decision, arguing that a life sentence amounted to an insufficient deterrent, noting that drug smuggling has become more “complicated” recently.
According to the verdict, she was working for a man known only as Francis in Benin, adding that the drugs were to be transported to another country from Vietnam.
They said Duy convinced her friends and relatives to smuggle drugs also. Her y…

Arkansas Court Upends Death Penalty

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The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty law on Friday, faulting a provision that permitted the Corrections Department to select the fatal drugs used in an execution.
The court ruled 5 to 2 that the Legislature must set the quantity and type of drugs in a lethal injection. The 2009 law left those decisions to the director of the Corrections Department. The court sided with 10 death row inmates who challenged the law’s constitutionality.
Prison officials across the nation are grappling with a shortage of an anesthetic called sodium thiopental that is one of three drugs used in a lethal injection. The only American company that manufactured the drug stopped producing it in 2010, saying the active ingredient had become difficult to obtain.
Arkansas does not have any doses of the drug left, and its law does not specify whether a substitute is allowed.

The 37 inmates on the state’s death row will not be executed until the Legislature responds to the ruling, said D…

Former Texas Death Row Inmate Testifies at Congressional Hearings on Solitary Confinement

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On June 19, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held hearings on solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, including the conditions of many state death rows. The hearings marked the 1st time lawmakers on Capitol Hill have considered this issue. 
Anthony Graves, a former Texas death row inmate, described the conditions of his incarceration in a 8 by 12 foot cage with no physical human contact for years. Meals were passed through a slot, as if feeding an animal. Graves equated his time on Texas’s death row with solitary confinement and described it as “physical, emotional, and psychological torture.”
He added, “I saw guys who dropped their appeals because of the intolerable conditions. Before his execution, one inmate told me he would rather die than continue existing under these inhumane conditions. I saw guys come to prison sane, and leave this world insane, talking nonsense on the execution gurney. One guy suffered some of his last days smeari…

Last ever UK death sentence conviction quashed

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Liam Holden, the last person to be sentenced to death in the United Kingdom, is cleared by the Court of Appeal of murdering a soldier in west Belfast in 1972.
A Belfast man, who was the last person to be sentenced to death in the United Kingdom, has been cleared of murdering a soldier in 1972.
Liam Holden spent 17 years in jail after being convicted. His death sentence was commuted to a life term.
At the time, he told the court he was forced to sign a confession after soldiers threatened to kill him and used water torture on him.
On Thursday, the Court of Appeal in Belfast overturned his conviction.
Clear guidelines
The Crown had previously said it would not object to the holding of an appeal after assessing evidence contained in a confidential annexe of material.
This showed that by interrogating Mr Holden for more than 3 hours, the military was in breach of clear government guidelines that suspects arrested by soldiers should be handed over immediately to the RUC for questioning.
At t…

Mississippi executes Gary Carl Simmons Jr.

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PARCHMAN, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi has executed a former grocery store butcher who dismembered a man during a 1996 attack in which he raped the man's female friend and locked her in a metal box.
Gary Carl Simmons Jr., 49, was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m. CDT after an injection Wednesday at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. He was condemned for the Aug. 12, 1996, shooting death and dismemberment of Jeffery Wolfe, whose body parts were found in a south Mississippi bayou.
"I've been blessed to be loved by some good people, by some amazing people. I thank them for their support. Let's get it on so these people can go home. That's it," Simmons said as he lay strapped on a gurney in the execution chamber moments before the procedure was carried out.
Once the drugs began flowing, Simmons took a few deep breaths and yawned before going motionless.
In the hours before the execution, Simmons' lawyers filed a motion attempting to stop it with the U.S.…