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Showing posts from October, 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…

South Dakota executes Donald Moeller

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A man convicted of killing a 9-year-old South Dakota girl was executed Tuesday night, ending a 22-year saga that included his initial conviction being overturned and a flurry of attempts to stop his lethal injection even as he insisted he was ready to die.
Donald Moeller was given a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls in what will be South Dakota's 2nd execution this month but only the 2nd since 2007.
The 60-year-old had fought his conviction and sentence for years, but in July said he was ready to accept death as the consequence for killing Becky O'Connell in 1990.
"I don't want to die," Moeller said during a hearing earlier this month. "I want to pay for what I owe."
Moeller kidnapped the girl from a Sioux Falls convenience store where she'd gone to buy sugar to make lemonade. He then drove her to a secluded area near the Big Sioux River before raping and killing her. Her naked body was found the next day; she had been stabb…

Nigeria: Amnesty International Seeks Reprieve for Edo Death Row Inmates

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Amnesty International has appealed to the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, to rescind its decision to carry out the death sentence passed on two inmates at the state prison.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) has also written to President Goodluck Jonathan, asking him to prevail on the governor to stop the execution.
Amnesty International noted that it was difficult for many accused persons to get justice in Nigeria's justice system, adding that it would not be fair to execute those who might not have received fair trials and who had been on death row for many years.
Director General of Amnesty International, Mr. Salil Shetty, who stated this Monday when he visited the offices of the Human Rights Social Development and Environment Foundation (HURSDEF) in Port Harcourt, said the body was concerned that Oshiomhole had expressed his readiness to go ahead with the execution of the two death row inmates.
Shetty said the excuse given by Oshiomhole that…

California: Death sentence of state's longest-serving death row inmate overturned

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A federal appeals court Monday overturned the death sentence of California’s longest serving death row inmate on the grounds that his defense lawyer failed to investigate and present mitigating evidence during the penalty phase of his murder trial.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decided 2-1 that Douglas R. Stankewitz, convicted of murdering Theresa Greybeal in Fresno in 1978, should be re-sentenced to life without possibility of parole unless prosecutors retry the penalty phase of his murder case.
The 9th Circuit majority said Stankewitz’s lawyer presented only a “paltry” amount of evidence in trying to persuade jurors against a death sentence, ignoring extensive documentation of the defendant’s “deprived and abusive upbringing,” potential mental illness, long history of substance abuse and use of drugs leading up to the murder.
Stankewitz was born into a filthy, poverty-stricken home without running water or electricity to an intellectually impaired alc…

Vietnam: Lethal injection switch stalls over lack of drugs

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Though approved by the National Assembly in 2009, execution by lethal injection under the Law on Criminal Verdict Execution has been delayed two times and has still not been carried out because concerned agencies have been unable to import the drugs needed for the injections.
The isue was raised and discussed at an NA meeting held on October 26 to review the country’s performance in fighting crime.
National Assembly Deputy Chairman Huynh Ngoc Son said the police department has built 10 execution centers by lethal injection, but the new execution method has yet to be implemented due to a failure to import the necessary materials.
“The drugs for a lethal injection must be imported through the EU, but the organization is demanding that Vietnam abolish the death penalty,” Son said.
According to a report from several law agencies, nearly 450 defendants have yet to be executed by the new method due to the lack of material. Meanwhile, some prisoners under the death penalty have petitioned t…

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's death penalty debacle

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Perry's popularity dipped at home after he dropped out of the [presidential] race, but something else lurking in his past could cause worse than a downturn in his poll numbers. Perry, it turns out, not only stood by while his state's executioners took the life of a man widely believed by forensics scientists to have been innocent, he later acted to prevent evidence of that innocence from seeing the light of day. He oversees a state whose procedures for reviewing inmate appeals are a national disgrace and that may, if the case of Cameron Todd Willingham is ever given a fair hearing, prove to be the home of the first execution of a factually and legally innocent person since the advent of the modern judicial system.
Willingham was convicted in 1992 of setting an arson fire that killed his three young daughters based on the testimony of witnesses, including a jailhouse informant who claimed Willingham confessed to setting the fire, and a pair of veteran fire investigators. As th…

Somalia: Young woman stoned to death for sex offence

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October 25, 2012: A young woman was stoned to death in Somalia after being convicted of engaging in out-of-marriage sex, reports say.
Residents of Jamama town, 425km south of Mogadishu in Lower Juba region, said that militants loyal to Al-Shabaab carried out the stoning at the town’s main square in late afternoon.
“Many residents were called to attend the execution of the punishment,” a resident who requested anonymity for own safety told Kulmiye, an independent broadcaster in Mogadishu.
He added that Al-Shabaab officials in the town witnessed the stoning.
“The woman admitted having out-of-marriage sex,” said an Islamist official who talked to the crowd after the stoning was completed.
“This type of punishments that are compatible with Sharia (Islamic laws) will be administered,” said the official
According to residents, the young woman was picked up from one of the neighbourhoods of the town, but there was no trace of the man partner involved in the alleged offence.
Source: africare…

"Indonesia may be moving towards rejecting capital punishment but there is strong Islamic resistance"

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Among those waiting on death row in Indonesian jails are two Australians - the Bali nine drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran - each of whom has recently applied for clemency from the Indonesian President.
But in the past few weeks there have been indications that at the highest political levels, Indonesia is tentatively moving to reject the death penalty.
Last week it was revealed that against the advice of the Supreme Court, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had granted clemency to the drug trafficker Deni Setia Maharwa, sentenced to death for trying to smuggle 3.5 kilograms of heroin and three kilograms of cocaine to London in 2000.
The following day it emerged that, between 2004 and 2011, Yudhoyono had reduced to life imprisonment the death sentences of four people.
The Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, said pointedly that most of the world had now abolished it and Indonesia was in the minority.
Just a week or two earlier, it had been revealed that the Supreme Court…

Suit over Arizona Execution procedures dismissed

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A lawsuit challenging how Arizona conducts executions has been dismissed in the wake of the state changing procedures that drew objections from lawyers for death-row inmates.
The changes include using one execution drug instead of the 3-drug mix that the state has used for nearly 3 decades, and allowing witnesses to watch the execution team insert injection lines into the condemned prisoner.
Lawyers for the state and inmates on Wednesday jointly asked a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss the suit, and he promptly did so.
The suit was filed in February, but it followed years of litigation concerning some of the same concerns that inmates could be subjected to pain and suffering in violation of the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
The request to dismiss the latest suit has been in the works for about a month as lawyers for the inmates reviewed changes that the state made to its protocol in September and consulted their clients.
"Because these matte…

BOOKS: Injustice – Life and Death in the Court Room of America. By Clive Stafford Smith

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In the book, Stafford-Smith goes through each of the components of the criminal justice system in the US and explains what happened (or what did not happen) in the Maharaj case - the defence lawyer, the police, the jury, the judge, the execution. While telling the story of the Maharaj case, Stafford Smith recounts other experiences of his cases, to give a powerful polemic against the death penalty.
For a British-based lawyer such as me, there is something humbling about reading this account. Stafford Smith makes no bones about it - this work has been his passion and he feels responsible for each of his clients.
He has watched 6 of his clients being executed - 2 in a gas chamber, 2 by electric chair and 2 by lethal injection. Knowing that your advice, your advocacy and your counsel has so much at stake is a frightening thought and one can only imagine at the personal cost to Stafford Smith. It is not, one thinks a normal 9-to-5 job with set annual holidays.
There is 1 particularly har…

Death penalty is torture: U.N. expert

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The U.N. special rapporteur on torture has said the death penalty is increasingly being viewed as cruel, inhuman treatment that is tantamount to torture, and called for a thorough examination of its legality.
In presenting a report Tuesday to the human rights committee of the U.N. General Assembly, Juan Mendez touched on the treatment of death-row inmates kept in solitary confinement without knowledge of their date of execution.
Such treatment "contributes to the risk of serious and irreparable mental and physical harm and suffering to the inmate," Mendez said, although he didn't single out any countries.
His remarks could be interpreted as a warning for Japan, which continues both of these practices for inmates sentenced to hang.
Source: Japan Times, October 25, 2012

U.S.: Former executioners say it's time to kill the death penalty

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Jerry Givens is no stranger to the death penalty. As former chief executioner for the state of Virginia, Givens executed 62 convicted criminals.
"I carried out 37 executions by lethal injection and 25 by electrocution," said Givens on Wednesday night.
Givens, along with fellow former executioner and warden Ron McAndrew, of Florida, were in Bakersfield as guest speakers advocating for the passage of Proposition 34 on California's November ballot.
Like Givens, McAndrew also carried out executions, but has since come to oppose the death penalty.
"I supported it through ignorance," said McAndrew.
The pair were invited to speak at Grace Episcopal Church, sponsored by California People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, an interfaith group.
Givens and McAndrew are touring the Central Valley, sharing their transformation from executioners to supporters of Prop 34, which abolishes the death penalty in California and replaces it with life in prison without the possibi…

Malaysia: Amnesty welcomes abolition of death penalty for drug trafficking

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Amnesty International has welcomed the proposal to abolish the death penalty for drug trafficking but called on the government to remove capital punishment for all offences.
Law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz reportedly said last week the government may replace the death penalty for drug offences with a prison term, which will entail reprieves for hundreds now on death row.
"Amnesty International welcomes this proposal and hopes it will lead to the quick abolition of the death penalty for drug offences," the global rights group said in a statement today.
"The government should immediately extend a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty for all crimes."
It noted that Malaysia applies the death sentence to a wide range of offences from treason to assisting in suicide. The penalty is mandatory in murder and drug trafficking cases.
"Mandatory death sentences prevent judges from exercising their discretion and from considering all fac…

Texas executes Bobby Lee Hines

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Convicted killer Bobby Lee Hines was executed in Texas death chamber Wednesday for strangling and repeatedly stabbing a suburban Dallas woman at her apartment 21 years ago.
Hines, 40, was 19 and on probation for burglary when prosecutors say he stabbed 26-year-old Michelle Wendy Haupt 18 times and strangled her with a stereo's electrical cord. Haupt had moved from the Pittsburgh area to Carrollton to work at a computer company in nearby Dallas, and Hines was staying next door at the home of a maintenance man for her apartment complex.
Hines was tried and convicted in March 1992, five months after the crime.
He initially was scheduled to die in 2003, but his execution was delayed for eight years until the courts resolved claims that he was mentally impaired and thus, ineligible for capital punishment. He was scheduled to die in May and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case, but the Dallas County district attorney's office again delayed the …
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Florida: John Ferguson gets last-minute stay of execution

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A flurry of last-minute legal maneuvers Tuesday spared, for now, the life of John Ferguson, a Florida death row inmate who suffers from mental illness and at one point called himself the 'prince of God.'
Ferguson, a diagnosed schizophrenic convicted of killing eight people, was scheduled to get the lethal injection Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET at a Florida State Prison.
But an appeals court in Atlanta granted an emergency stay of execution Tuesday night.
Florida officials then asked the Supreme Court to allow the lethal injection to proceed. Just before midnight the high court denied Florida's request, keeping in place the stay of execution, according to court documents.
Some had questioned why authorities would kill a man who suffered from mental illness.
Laurel Bellows, the president of the American Bar Association, released a statement earlier Tuesday saying she was concerned about how thoroughly Ferguson's competency was evaluated.
"The American Bar Association is al…

Ohio: Execution Table Can Support Obese Inmate

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The warden of the prison where Ohio puts inmates to death says the state's execution table can easily hold a condemned inmate who has argued he is so big it might collapse.
The table was tested by placing an equally heavy prison employee on it and additionally by placing weights on it.
"The execution table held firmly and showed no signs of instability," Donald Morgan, warden at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, said in a court filing late Monday opposing inmate Ronald Post's request to be spared.
Judging by the two tests, Morgan said he is confident the table "can and will accommodate the weight of inmate Post for his scheduled execution."
Post's attorneys said last month he weighs 480 pounds, while the state says Post weighed 396 pounds last week.
Post, 53, is scheduled to die on Jan. 16 for the 1983 shooting death of Helen Vantz in Elyria.
Vantz's son, Bill Vantz, has called Post's arguments "laughable."
Post a…

Six executed in two Iranian cities

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Iran Human Rights, October 23: Six prisoners were executed in two different Iranian cities. Three of the prisoners were convicted of Moharebeh (war against the God) and executed in the southeastern city of Zahedan while the three other prisoners were convicted of drug trafficking and executed in Qazvin (west of Tehran).
Three prisoners were executed in Zahedan (southeastern Iran) on Sunday October 21:
According to the official website of the Iranian judiciary in Baluchestan Province three prisoners identified as "Yahya Chari", Abdoljalil Kahrazehi and Abdolbaset Rigi were hanged in the prison of Zahedan early Sunday morning. The prisoners were convicted of "corruption on earth" and "Moharebeh" through connection with "terrorist" groups in Baluchestan.
The charges have not been confirmed by independent sources.
Three prisoners were executed in Qazvin (west of Tehran) today October 23:
According to the official Iranian news agency IRNA three pris…

Home ministry rejects 26/11 terrorist Kasab's mercy plea

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NEW DELHI: Acting swiftly on 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case convict Ajmal Amir Kasab's mercy petition, the Union home ministry has rejected his plea of commuting death penalty and sent the file to President Pranab Mukherjee for taking the final decision.
In an unprecedented move, the home ministry -- which took years in sending mercy petition files of other convicts on death row -- has sent Kasab's file to Rashtrapati Bhavan within three weeks of getting the note of rejection from Maharashtra governor K Sankaranarayan.
"Since the state government and the governor had already rejected Kasab's mercy petition, the home ministry need not send it again to state. It simply processed it at its end taking state's advice and sent it to the President for taking final call", said a senior home ministry official.
The official said it was now up to the President to take a decision.
Click here to read the full article
Source: The Times of India, October 23, 2012

President al-Assad Grants General Amnesty for Crimes Committed before October 23, 2012

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President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday issued the legislative decree No. 71 for 2012 stipulating for granting a general amnesty for the crimes committed before October 23, 2012.
The decree replaces death penalty with life sentence of hard labor or long imprisonment sentence according to the crime.
It also replaces life sentence of hard labor with 20 years imprisonment with hard labor, and it replaces the long-life imprisonment sentence with 20 years imprisonment.
Crimes of smuggling weapons and drug trafficking are excluded from the provision of this decree.
Source: Syrian TV & Radio, October 23, 2012
Related articles: Death Penalty News: Bashar al-Assad approves new anti-terror laws Jul 03, 2012 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Monday ratified three laws that impose heavy penalties to those who commit "terrorist" acts in order to change the nature of the regime, reported the official SANA news agency. "Those who ... http://deathpenaltynews.blogspot.com/ Death Penalty Ne…

Nigeria: Oshiomhole Frees Two Prisoners Condemned to Death

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Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has granted amnesty to 2 prisoners condemned to death in exercise of his prerogative of mercy.
The governor said the prisoners, Monday Odu, who was sentenced to death for conspiracy and murder, and Calistus Ikem, convicted for conspiracy and armed robbery, were granted amnesty because they did not take the lives of their victims.
He also commuted to life imprisonment the sentence of death penalty for 2 others: Tijani Mustapha, convicted for conspiracy and armed robbery; and Zubem Abduramma, convicted for conspiracy and armed robbery; while Patrick Ojiefo, who was convicted for assault on a police officer while discharging his lawful duty and served 6-months jail term in 1973, was granted pardon.
Speaking after granting amnesty to Odu and Ikem, Oshiomhole said: "You have been condemned to death for murder but we have exercised the prerogative of mercy to release you from prison for the offence believing you have learnt your lesson. You can s…

Malaysia: Death penalty may be scrapped for drug offences

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The Government is looking into the possibility of withdrawing the mandatory death sentence for drug offences and replacing it with jail terms.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the Attorney-General's (A-G) Chambers would study the suitability of the move.
"One of the main reasons is because there are close to 250 Malaysians arrested as drug mules and sentenced to death abroad, including in China, Venezuela and Peru.
"It is difficult to justify our appeal to these countries not to hang them when our own country has the mandatory death sentence," he said in a press conference in Sauk, near here yesterday.
Convicted drug traffickers in the country now face the mandatory death sentence under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act.
Nazri, who is also the de facto Law Minister, said he would need to seek Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's view before discussing the suggestion with the A-G.
"If the Government is g…

Yemeni Woman Sentenced to Death for Killing Rapist

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October 19, 2012: Yemeni woman has been sentenced to death in Yemen for having opened fire and killed a male relative who climbed up the wall of her house in an attempt to rape her.
Raja Hakimi was initially sentenced to two years in prison by a district court in the southern province of Ibb. The sentence was raised to death by the court of appeals, prompting the condemnation of women and human rights groups.
Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC), an organization co-founded in 2005 by Tawakkol Karman, a recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, condemned the death sentence against Rajaa as an “unjust ruling, which violates all legislation and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
WJWC said in a statement that the woman, Hakimi, was “only defending herself” against an armed man who tried to exploit the absence of the woman’s husband and attack her with the intention to rape her.
The man reportedly carried a gun and climbed up the wall of Hakimi’s house in the middle of the nigh…

Morocco: Former death row inmates speak out at abolition forum

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Former convicts on death row in the Middle East and North Africa described awaiting their dreaded fate as "daily torture" from which execution itself was a "deliverance," at an abolition conference in Rabat.
"I spent 10 years on death row in Morocco, and the hardest thing was the wait," Ahmed Hamou told AFP at the three-day conference, which brought together hundreds of officials and civil society representatives from the MENA region.
"In Section B, which is the death row ward at Kenitra prison (40 kilometres north of Rabat), a terrible silence prevails. At the smallest sound, your heart beats faster and you say to yourself: 'That's it. The time has come."
Arrested on political charges in 1983 in Casablanca, at a time when Morocco's largest city was experiencing widespread social unrest, Haou was sentenced to death the following year.
In 1994, under international pressure, he was pardoned by the late king Hassan II, father of the pr…

The Darkest Hour: Shedding Light on the Impact of Isolation and Death Row

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Dr. Betty Gilmore and Nanon M. Williams shed light on the devastating impact of extreme isolation experienced by thousands of incarcerated individuals in Texas prisons -- many of whom will be integrated back into society. This book presents an in depth view of the Texas prison system with a specific focus on Death Row and "solitary confinement," also known as administrative segregation. The impact of living in severely restrictive conditions is examined through a multi-disciplinary lens that incorporates scientific research and expert opinion and includes powerful narratives from men who have been incarcerated for ten or more years. Factors such as childhood history, attachment, biology, poverty, race and other social influences are explored in relation to the events that led up to incarceration and the subsequent ability to obtain fair treatment throughout the legal process.
In-depth stories of trauma, survival and growth guides readers through the experiences of these men…