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Showing posts from July, 2014

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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

California: It's Time to End the Death Penalty Nightmare

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Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris should refuse to defend the state's unconstitutional system for putting people to death.
Jerry Brown, then attorney general, made the right choice in 2010 when he refused to defend Proposition 8 in the appellate courts after Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the anti-gay marriage law was unconstitutional. After all, Brown had opposed Prop 8 and was convinced it was unconstitutional, too. He then continued to refuse to defend the law when he became governor. Likewise, Kamala Harris took a principled stand in 2011 when she declined to defend Prop 8 after she succeeded Brown as attorney general. Those decisions by Brown and Harris took courage; they both endured criticism for refusing to defend a voter-approved law.
It's now time for Brown and Harris to show their courage again — and refuse to defend California's death penalty law in the wake of a recent decision by a federal court judge who said it's unconstitutional, …

US ‘Concerned’ Over Indictment of Uighur Academic

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The United States has called on China to release Uighur rights activist and economics professor Ilham Tohti, who was charged Wednesday with separatism two days after clashes in Xinjiang that caused dozens of casualties. The head of a U.S./based Uighur group said the Muslim Uighur community is rising up against China’s recently-announced crackdown.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf Wednesday expressed concern about Ilham Tohti’s indictment, as well as his detention and that of six students since January:
"We have been deeply concerned about the lack of transparency concerning his welfare and access to legal representation. We call on Chinese authorities to release Mr. Tohti and his students and to guarantee them the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China’s international human rights commitments, including freedom of expression," said Harf.
Charged with separatism
China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said the former lecturer at Beijing…

Indian SC Extends Stay on Death Penalty

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, extended the stay on the execution of death penalty of Soumya murder case convict Govindachamy.
The court on Thursday asked the state government to present the documents related to the case.
Govindachamy had approached the court for commuting his death sentence awarded by the Thrissur Fast Track Court upheld by the Kerala High Court.
In his appeal, Govindachamy has said that the trial court had ordered the capital punishment without properly examining evidence.
The High Court had criticised the lukewarm response of the Railways and the attitude of fellow passengers of Soumya, who was returning home on a Shoranur-bound train from her workplace in Ernakulam, when the incident took place.
The Bench held that the attitude of fellow passengers was ‘disgustful’. Had they offered a helping hand, this untoward incident could have been avoided. There is a need to create awareness among the public to rise to the occasion. Inaction of fellow passenger…

UAE: 2 sentenced to death over police officer's death

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July 25, 2014: The brutal murder of an Ajman Police officer three years ago has been finally laid to rest with the Ajman Criminal Court sentencing two Arab men to death for the crime.
The two perpetrators, both in their 20s, had been arrested within 48 hours of the crime on February 11, 2011, and had confessed to the killing during interrogation. Police officer Suood Rashid Salim, 26, was stabbed to death near his home in Al Rashidiya area.
The police said Salim received a call from his mother-in-law, telling him that a visitor had arrived at his home looking for him. When he reached home, one of the two men met him inside the house while the other was waiting outside.
When he asked them what they wanted, they called him outside and attacked him viciously.
He was beaten up severely and then stabbed in the shoulder and abdomen. The attackers then fled, leaving him bleeding profusely, which caused his death.
When the police arrived and rushed him to Khalifa Hospital, he succumbed …

Texas: Man convicted of killing Bellaire police officer sentenced to death

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Houston - A jury decided the punishment Tuesday for the man convicted of killing a Bellaire police officer and an innocent bystander in 2012. Harlem Harold Lewis III was sentenced to death. The verdict was returned after about 12 hours of deliberation.
Twelve jurors - nine men and three women - unanimously agreed that Lewis should pay with his own life for shooting and killing Cpl. Jimmie Norman, 53, and Maaco shop owner Terry Taylor, 66, at the end of a police chase on Christmas Eve.
Lewis stood with his head hung low, as his attorney kept a hand on his left shoulder. Before the jury was polled about its decision, his attorney gave him a pat, then the two sat down.
One by one, the jurors were polled, and one by one, they answered yes. They determined Harlem Lewis would be a continuing threat to society, and there was no mitigating evidence to warrant mercy.
Click here to read the full article (+ video)
Source: click2houston, July 29, 2014

Ghana: President Mahama Pardons 21 Death Row Inmates

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July 23, 2014: A statement issued by Deputy Minister of the Interior James Agalga said the President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana had granted amnesty to 1,104 prisoners in commemoration of 54th Republic Anniversary which fell on 1 July.
Twenty-one prisoners on death row who had served at least 10 years had their sentences commuted to life, while 71 prisoners serving life sentences and who had served at least 10 years had their sentences commuted to a definite term of 20 years.
The President exercised his prerogative of mercy under Article 72 of the Constitution and acted upon the advice of the Council of State and the recommendation of the Ghana Prison Service.
The statement said 1,001 first offenders, who had served at least half of their sentences, were recommended for outright release. The amnesty included nine seriously ill prisoners who were released on medical grounds. 
Another prisoner serving at the President’s pleasure was recommended by the Medical Board for outright rel…

Medical Examiner: Arizona Injection lines placed correctly in inmate

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PHOENIX — Intravenous lines were placed correctly during the execution of an Arizona inmate whose death with lethal drugs took more than 90 minutes, a medical examiner said Monday.
Incorrect placement of lines can inject drugs into soft tissue instead of the blood stream, but the drugs used to kill Joseph Woods went into the veins of his arms, said Gregory Hess of the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.
Hess also told The Associated Press that he found no unexplained injuries or anything else out of the ordinary when he examined the body of Woods, who gasped and snorted Wednesday more than 600 times before he was pronounced dead.
An Ohio inmate gasped in similar fashion for nearly 30 minutes in January. An Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.
Hess said he will certify the outcome of Woods' execution as death by intoxication from the two execution drugs…

Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner insists on innocence as he weathers legal downturn in his case

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LIVINGSTON - Every morning, convicted triple killer Henry Skinner awakes about 4 a.m. as breakfast is served at Texas' death row, deep within the concertina wire-girded Polunksy Unit 10 miles west of this East Texas hamlet. Around him are the furnishings of his 6-by-10-foot steel and concrete cell - a sink, toilet and bunk. For 22 hours a day, this austere place is Skinner's home.
It is here that Skinner, a onetime Pampa paralegal sentenced to die for one of the bloodiest killings in recent Texas Panhandle history, awaits his fate.
"My life is on the line for a crime I didn't do," Skinner, 52, said this week. "As far as the state is concerned, I'm expendable trash."
Skinner's case garnered international attention as he battled for more than a decade to obtain DNA testing of vaginal swabs, a bloody knife and dozens of other pieces of previously unexamined crime scene evidence. Twice Skinner's imminent execution was postponed to allow his law…

Why Wood's execution should trouble death penalty fans

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Whether you agree with the death penalty or not it should bother you that it took the murderer Joseph Wood almost two hours to die, gasping for air during his execution.
Whether you agree with the death penalty or not it should bother you that Gov. Jan Brewer immediately promised a review of the procedure and simultaneously appeared to clear the Department of Corrections of any wrongdoing.
Shortly after Wood was declared dead Brewer's office sent out statement that read in part, "While justice was carried out today, I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process. One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer."
Whether or not you agree with the death penalty it should bother you that the governor directed the DOC to do an investigation of … the DOC.
Whether you agree or not with the governor's conclusion that Wood "did not suffer," it should bothe…

RECTIFY

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RECTIFY
This powerful, intelligent, sensistive, well-documented and gripping new American series follows Daniel Holden (Aden Young) who must put his life back together after serving 19 years on Georgia's Death Row before DNA evidence calls his conviction into question.

TV Series. Creator: Ray McKinnon (2013) with Aden Young, J. Smith-Cameron, Clayne Crawford, Luke Kirby, Abigail Spencer, Jake Austin, Walker Bruce McKinnon, Michael O'Neill, J.D. Evermore Johnny Ray Gill. Produced by Gran Via Productions, Zip Works. Distributed by Sundance Channel (2013-) (USA) (TV).
More information on the IMDB page here.



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South Korean student survivors recall horror of ferry disaster; captain, 3 senior officers could face death penalty

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All but one of the six students who testified in the Monday morning session of the criminal case appeared in the court room in the city of Ansan, just outside of Seoul, although they had been given the option of doing so via video link from a nearby room - a measure meant to make the experience less daunting.
One of the students, whose names were withheld to protect their privacy, recalled how they were instructed via the ferry's internal tannoy "over and over" to stay put in their cabins, until the vessel had listed severely to one side.
"The door was above our heads. We had our lifejackets on and the president of our class suggested we wait until we could float upwards and then escape," the student.
Help that never came
Another recalled seeing classmates swept back into the ferry as they were trying to escape.
"About 30 schoolmates stood in line in a corridor leading to an emergency exit, waiting for rescue. With no rescuers coming, one student after ano…

Chemical mix and human error lead to controversial executions

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Arizona spent 2 hours killing death row inmate Joseph Wood this week, an unusually long time for an execution. Wood's death has reopened the debate about capital punishment and lethal injection. Lethal injection is used in all 32 states that have the death penalty.
Some witnesses said Wood was gasping for breath and seemed to be in pain. Others said he was simply snoring. The state of Arizona said Wood didn't suffer. Either way, there are renewed concerns that executions, which are supposed to be quick and painless, are neither.
Typically executions are performed using 3 drugs in stages. The 1st drug is an anesthetic. The 2nd drug is called a paralytic and the 3rd drug is supposed to stop the heart.
For years, executioners used a drug called sodium thiopental as the 1st drug, the anesthetic, until the only U.S. producer of the drug stopped making it. Then the United States turned to European manufacturers, but they refused to sell the drug for use in executions.
Since sodium …

Are US Executions Really Humane?

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As the nation is horrified by another botched execution, a capital defense lawyer in Texas, legal scholar in New York and the former warden of San Quentin work against capital punishment.
There were only 3 people in the room: Jeanne Woodford, the chaplain and the man strapped to a gurney with tubes coming out of his arms. After hearing the man's last words, Woodford signaled the corrections officer who was "working the chemicals," which means in prison argot that he started infusions of lethal chemicals that flowed into the man on the gurney. As warden of California's San Quentin, Woodford presided over this high-tech ritual of punishment four times. After a stint as Executive Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, she threw in the towel to become Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus, the abolitionist organization that sponsored the 2012 SAFE referendum seeking to replace the death penalty with life without parole. Though the re…

Most US people executed not evil: Study

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A new study shows that prisoners put to death in the US are hardly ever the worst of the worst criminals.
The study, published in Hastings Law Journal, examined 100 executions carried out between 2012 and 2013, many of these people are not cold, calculating, remorseless killers.
"A lot of folks even familiar with criminal justice and the death penalty system thought that, by the time you executed somebody, you're really gonna get these people that the court describes as the worst of the worst," Robert Smith, the study's lead researcher and an assistant professor of law at the University of North Carolina, told The Huffington Post.
"It was surprising to us just how many of the people that we found had evidence in their record suggesting that there are real problems with functional deficits that you wouldn't expect to see in people being executed," Smith added.
One of the people studied as part of the research is Daniel Cook whose mom used alcoholic drin…

India: Would-be Executioners Line Up to Make a Killing as Wages Hiked

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Hundreds of death row inmates are waiting for the hangman in prisons throughout India, but the country's judicial system is facing a shortage of executioners.
The hangmen's tribe have dwindled in recent years with executions becoming a rarity, while negligible remuneration and the ominous nature of the job have prevented newcomers to the profession.
However, all that is set to change at least in the southern state of Kerala, which has found a straightforward way to attract interest - raise the remuneration steeply.
According to report in a regional language daily, the wages for hangmen have gone up from a mere Rupees 500 (4.90, $8.33 pounds) to Rupees 200,000 (1,958, $3,330 pounds) per execution.
The sharp wage hike prompted hordes of aspirants to queue up for the job - in the hope of making a killing.
Apart from the office of the Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi which published the report, the state's central jails and associated departments also received a flurry of enquirie…

Pakistan: Acid attacker awarded death penalty

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The ATC judge awarded death sentence on 2 counts to Zulfiqar. 
Anti Terrorism Court (ACT) Judge Ishtiaq Ahmad awarded death penalty on Friday to man convicted of attacking a woman with acid and killing her near Mansoorabad police station. 
Prosecution said 30-year-old woman Ayesha Zafar, a divorcee, was going on a motorbike with her nephew Zunair Sajid, 14, on June 10 when Waqas Zulfiqar, a property dealer, threw acid on her. 
The woman and her nephew were injured and taken to a hospital. Later, they were referred to Allied Hospital where the woman succumbed. 
The ATC judge awarded death sentence on 2 counts to Zulfiqar. The convict was also directed to pay Rs400,000 compensation or undergo imprisonment of 1.5 years. He was also fined Rs1 million. 
Source: The Express Tribune, July 26, 2014

Madhya Pradesh: Acid attacker given death sentence by court

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Morena, Madhya Pradesh: In a significant judgement, a youth has been sentenced to death by a local court for throwing acid on a woman following which she died.
Additional Sessions Judge at Ambah in the district K C Gupta yesterday awarded capital punishment to Jogendra Tomar (28), who had thrown acid on the face of Ruby Rawat (24) last year at her house in Porsa town of Morena, after she rejected his demand to live with him. Ruby had later succumbed to her injuries.
The judge observed that the crime committed by Jogendra was heinous and that merely awarding him life imprisonment would not have been enough. "It is because of this that I have decided to give him the death sentence," he further observed.
Enraged over Ruby's refusal to live with him, Jogendra, who is married, went to her house in Porsa on July 21 last year and threw acid on her face while she was sleeping. He also threw acid on some family members who tried to rescue Ruby. They had also sustained injuries i…

Texas: Lawyers file complaint against prosecutor in Corsicana arson-murder case

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Houston lawyers Friday filed a complaint against a former North Texas prosecutor, claiming he lied about cutting a deal with a witness that helped send a possibly innocent Corsicana auto mechanic to his execution.
The complaint against John Jackson was lodged with the State Bar of Texas to spotlight the former prosecutor's alleged perjury during a 2010 court of inquiry called to review the murder case. Cameron Todd Willingham, 36, was executed in 2004 for the December 1991 murder of his three young children in an arson fire at his Corsicana home.
Neal Mann, a lawyer with Susman Godfrey LLP, said Jackson cut a deal with a jailhouse informer whose testimony was key to Willingham's conviction, then hid it from the court.
Jackson has denied that he offered special consideration to the informer in return for testimony, but Willingham supporters said they have documentation that Jackson intervened for the man when he later was incarcerated in state prison.
Willingham's convicti…

The Beginning of the End of America’s Death-Penalty Experiment

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Beginnings and endings are not always apparent when they occur. The modern death-penalty era began on July 2, 1976, when the Supreme Court decided the case of Gregg v. Georgia. But we did not actually know it had begun until Jan. 17, 1977, which was the date the State of Utah executed Gary Gilmore by firing squad.
The thing about the firing squad, though, and most all other methods of execution the States adopted—including hanging, the electric chair and the gas chamber—is that they are not the least bit subtle. When you shoot somebody, or hang him, you know you are killing him. The death penalty, however, is the sausage factory of America’s legal system: Nobody wants to know what is actually going on.
So the states eventually embraced lethal injection as the preferred method of killing condemned murderers. Now we could all pretend that the process was nothing more than a sterile implementation of proportional punishment. Sure, we were still killing somebody, but the actual act of ki…

Troubled U.S. executions raise questions about doctors in death chamber

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Almost all of the 32 states that use the death penalty either require or permit a physician to attend executions, which often are carried out by lesser-trained medical personnel, but doctors who participate risk losing their license to practice medicine if they are discovered to have helped.
There was a doctor present at the execution in Oklahoma in April, where an IV popped out when rapist and murderer Clayton Lockett was being executed. Prison officials halted the execution, but Lockett died of a heart attack about 40 minutes after the procedure started.
Similarly in Arizona, a doctor was present on Wednesday when it took at least two doses of a lethal drug cocktail to execute double murderer Joseph Wood. The Arizona Department of Corrections said the IVs were properly placed, and that Wood was fully sedated throughout the procedure.
The typical protocol for states requires that a medically trained person - such as a paramedic, military corpsman or certified medical assistant - adm…

Japanese man executed in China over stimulant drug smuggling

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Chinese authorities executed Friday a Japanese man in his 50s who had been sentenced to death in connection with stimulant drug smuggling.
Commenting on the execution, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told Kyodo News that China prudently applies the death penalty, and renders judgment based on strict legal procedures and reviews them. "The judicial branch also administers capital punishment based on normal procedures," Hong said.
Yang Yu, counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, voiced agreement with the execution, saying at a press conference Friday that drug-related offenses are considered serious crimes anywhere in the world.
"In China, the judicial branch independently hands down decisions based on the law, and all people whatever their nationality are treated equally and punished severely," he emphasized.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said China had notified Japan that the execution took place in the morning.
The man was sentenced to de…

Experts decry 'failed experiment' with new death penalty drug combinations

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Leading experts on the use of medical drugs in capital punishment have accused death penalty states of conducting a “failed experiment” with new drug combinations following a recent run of drawn-out executions in which prisoners have shown signs of distress on the gurney.
“There have been two executions using midazolam and hydromorphone, and both have led to problems. That indicates that it's possible that the combination doesn't work. These are failed experiments with this drug combination,” said David Waisel, associate professor of anaesthesia at Harvard medical school who has acted as an expert defence witness in many capital cases. “Given the two recent events it seems irresponsible to continue trying this combination.”
Mark Heath, a Columbia University anaesthesiologist in New York, and also a lethal injection expert, pointed out that of the 12 executions in which midazolam has been deployed, “four did not really go as you'd expect or want”. He said: "The common…

After troubled execution in Arizona, Ohio to use same drugs, dosage

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Despite problems that plagued an Arizona execution, Ohio officials plan to use the same drugs in the same quantity during Ronald Phillips’ execution scheduled for Sept. 18.
Capital punishment in Ohio has been on hold for two months because of an order by U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost in a lethal-injection case. Frost’s order expires on Aug. 15. Barring further legal action, the execution will proceed for Phillips, a Summit County child-killer who already has had two reprieves.
However, the troubled execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona on Wednesday turned up the heat on a death-penalty debate that began on Jan. 16 when Ohio executed Dennis McGuire using a then-untested chemical combination.
While prison officials concluded that McGuire, 53, did not feel “pain or distress” during his execution, witnesses observed that he repeatedly gasped, choked, clenched his fists and appeared to struggle against his restraints for more than 10 minutes after the administration of midazolam, a s…

Executed Killer Joseph Wood Died In Middle of Emergency Hearing

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An Arizona judge was in the middle of an emergency telephone hearing on the execution of Joseph Wood when word came that the inmate had finally died after more than an hour of what witnesses have described as gasping.
A transcript of the hearing shows that 45 minutes after defense lawyers filed a motion asking that Wood's execution be stopped because he was still alive, no decision had been made.
The parties — U.S. District Judge Neil Wake, a lawyer from the state attorney general's office, and Wood's attorney — were discussing whether stopping the execution would cause pain when the question became moot.
"I just learned that the IV team leader has confirmed Mr. Wood's death," said Jeff Zick, an attorney for the state.
The process took nearly two hours, with a member of the medical team checking eight times to see if the double-murderer was still alive, state officials said.
Midway through the execution, Wood's legal team filed for an emergency stay of e…

Two-hour long executions might not affect public opinion on the death penalty

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Public support for the death penalty in the United States has declined, but it remains strong, with at least 60 percent of respondents in surveys saying that they favor capital punishment. Whether the public would support the kind of execution that the state of Arizona administered on Wednesday, in which a convicted murderer took two hours to die after a lethal injection, is another question, one that pollsters can't yet answer.
A poll conducted by CBS News found that support for capital punishment had declined by 5 percentage points between last year and this May. Polls conducted by Gallup and The Washington Post-ABC News found no change in public attitudes.
Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport said he doubted that prolonged executions would alter public opinion. When supporters of the death penalty are asked why they are in favor, they tend to say condemned prisoners must pay for their crimes. "The fact that the killer suffered for one or two hours more at the end may not …

A Prolonged Execution in Arizona Leads to a Temporary Halt

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PHOENIX — The Arizona attorney general on Thursday called a temporary halt to executions in the state, a day after the convicted killer Joseph R. Wood III died one hour and 57 minutes after his execution began. Death penalty experts said it was one of the longest times it has taken in the United States for drugs to kill a condemned man.
But Charles L. Ryan, the director of the state’s Department of Corrections rejected the notion that the execution was botched, despite the fact that the procedure of death by lethal injection usually takes about 15 minutes. He said in a statement that an autopsy by the Pima County medical examiner, concluded on Thursday, found that the intravenous lines were “perfectly placed,” “the catheters in each arm were completely within the veins” and “there was no leakage of any kind.”
“I am committed to a thorough, transparent and comprehensive review process,” Mr. Ryan said.
The execution of Mr. Wood was, by all accounts, an unusual one: Once a vein had been…

10 prisoners including 4 women hanged in eastern Iran

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The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged at least 10 prisoners including 4 women last Sunday and Monday.
The reports from Iran say on Sunday a group of 4 men and 4 women were hanged in the main prison in the city of Birjand (eastern Iran).
Another 2 prisoners were hanged on Monday in the same prison. All prisoners had been arrested on drug related charges.
During the last 12 month of Hassan Rouhani's 'moderate' presidency, an estimated 800 prisoners have been executed, many hanged in public.
Source: NCRI, July 23, 2014

Sudanese woman spared death for apostasy arrives in Rome

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A Sudanese woman who was spared a death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity and then barred from leaving Sudan flew into Rome today on an Italian government plane, officials said.
Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, whose sentence and detention triggered international outrage, arrived at Rome’s Ciampino airport with her family and Italy’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, television pictures showed.
There were no details on what led up to the 27-year-old’s departure from Khartoum, and there was no immediate comment from the Sudanese authorities.
Ms Ibrahim was sentenced to death by a Sudanese court in May on charges of converting from Islam to Christianity and marrying a Christian South Sudanese-American.
The conviction was quashed last month, but Sudan’s government accused her of trying to leave the country with falsified papers, preventing her departure for the United States with her American-South Sudanese husband and two children.
Her lawyer Mohaned Mostafa said …