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Showing posts from March, 2015

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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…

Alabama Judges Override Juries and Order Death Sentences ... if There's an Election Coming Up

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The worst time to be tried for murder in Alabama is in an election year, when state judges are prone to upgrade punishment to death in capital cases in order to curry favor with voters.
Alabama is 1 of 3 states (Delaware and Florida being the others) that grant judges the authority to override jury sentences and impose the death penalty. Since Florida rarely uses the judicial override and Delaware has abolished the death penalty, Alabama is the only state to use the option on a routine basis, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Statistics show that Alabama judges, who are elected to the bench, have overridden juries in murder cases 111 times since the death penalty's reinstatement in 1976. Of that 111, judges have upgraded the sentences to death 101 times. In the remaining 10 cases, the judges downgraded the sentence to life in prison. More than 20% of the inmates on death row in Alabama are there as a result of judicial overrides.
"Judicial candidates frequently cam…

Prosecution rests its case against Boston Marathon bomber

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Boy's clothing shown as prosecution rests case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Prosecutors rested their case against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Monday after jurors in his federal death penalty trial saw gruesome autopsy photos and heard a medical examiner describe the devastating injuries suffered by an 8-year-old boy killed in the 2013 terror attack.
But Tsarnaev's lawyers began their defense by quickly trying to show that his older brother was the mastermind of the plan to detonate pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the famous race.
One of the first witnesses called by the defense was a data analyst who said Tsarnaev's cellphone was being used in southeastern Massachusetts - where he was attending college - while pressure cookers were being purchased north of Boston more than 2 months before the bombing. The analyst also testified that large quantities of BBs were purchased a little over a month before the attack in 2 Walmart stores in New Hampshire…

20 % of Danes would vote to bring back the death penalty

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Opposition party constituents particularly keen
Denmark, which is known as a leader when it comes to human rights, abolished the death penalty way back in 1930 (although it was briefly brought back from 1945-50 to punish Nazi collaborators).
But a new Megafon survey conducted on behalf of Politiken newspaper and TV2 shows that 20 % of Danes would vote in favour of bringing back the death penalty in Denmark.
In particular, people who voted for the opposition parties at the 2011 election are in favour of the death penalty. 
Some 36 % of Dansk Folkeparti voters said they would vote yes, as did 34 % of Liberal Alliance voters and 32 % of Venstre voters.
No chance
But despite their voters' opinions, DF, LA and Venstre have no intention of adding the death penalty to their election campaign this year.
"I can understand why many believe that the judicial system needs to toughen up after the terror attack in Copenhagen," Peter Skaarup, the DF spokesperson for judicial issues, tol…

Iran: 3 Prisoners Hanged in Mashhad

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3 prisoners were hanged in Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad.
According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), on Thursday morning, 26th March, 3 prisoners in Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad were executed by hanging.
According to HRANA's sources, the 3 men who had been convicted of drug crimes have not been identified yet and judiciary officials also have not given any information about them.
These executions are happening while, according to Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, the death penalty in Iran over the past decade has been rising from 99 cases a year in 2004 to 687 in 2013.
Ahmad Shaheed in his latest report described the increasing rate of executions in Iran as "alarming" and urged to stop this process.
Source: Human Rights Activists News Agency, March 31, 2015
Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Indonesia Prosecutors Not Seeking Death Penalty For Chicago Couple

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BALI, Indonesia (AP) – Indonesian prosecutors on Tuesday sought jail sentences of 18 years for an American man and 15 years for his girlfriend if they are found guilty of murdering the woman’s mother while vacationing on the resort island of Bali last year.
The prosecutors told the court that Tommy Schaefer and Heather Mack, who appeared in court with their 2-week-old daughter, were guilty of premeditated murder. The panel of judges could ignore the sentencing request and decide to impose the maximum, death by a firing squad, if it convicts them.
“The defendant has committed sadistic acts to her own mother,” chief prosecutor Eddy Arta Wijaya told the court at Mack’s trial. “However, we’ve decided to be lenient because she repeatedly expressed remorse and has a newborn baby.”
The badly beaten body of Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, was found in a suitcase in the trunk of a taxi outside an upscale hotel in August.
Wijaya asked the judges to declare the defendants guilty with the fact that S…

Egypt: Bailed Al Jazeera journalist urges help for 'decent teenager' Ibrahim Halawa

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Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, on bail awaiting his retrial in Egypt, has urged the Irish government and the international community to save a teenager from Dublin with whom he recently shared a cell.
Ibrahim Halawa was 17 and on holiday with family when he was arrested in August 2013 during the Egyptian military’s breakup of protests. He faces a death sentence if convicted alongside 493 other people on nearly identical charges. The controversial ‘mass trial’, which includes several other juveniles alongside Mr Halawa, was postponed on Sunday for the fifth time in seven months. It emerged yesterday that Mr Halawa is now being held alongside prisoners who have been condemned to death at Wadi Natrun, reportedly one of Egypt’s worst jails.
Speaking to the Toronto Star, Mr Fahmy, who was jailed in Cairo in 2014 along with his colleagues Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, urged the Irish government to press for Mr Halawa’s deportation under the presidential decree that led to Mr Greste…

Pakistan: Four more executions

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March 31, 2015: four convicts for murder and kidnapping in separate cases were hanged in jails of Attock, Mianwali, Sargodha and Rawalpindi, taking to 64 the number of executions since the country reversed the self-imposed moratorium on the death penalty in December.
Sargodha’s Central Jail witnessed its first ever execution in 105 years since its establishment in 1910. 
Mohammad Riaz was found guilty by an anti-terrorism court for killing two people during a bank robbery in 2000.
Mohammad Ameen, a prisoner convicted of murdering a person on personal enmity in 1998, was sent to the gallows in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.
Another prisoner, Hubdar Shah, convicted of killing two men over a minor dispute in 2000, was hanged in Mianwali’s Central Jail.
Ikram-ul-Haq was.Akramul Haq, accused of kidnapping a 3-year-old girl for ransom in 2002, was hanged in Attock’s Jail.
Sources: PTI and Dunya News, Hands Off Cain, March 31, 2015
Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

US: Justices Hear Arguments on Intellectual Disability in Death Penalty Case

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a death penalty case and issued decisions on the monitoring of sex offenders and on the significance of a lawyer’s brief absence from a criminal trial.
Monday’s arguments, in Brumfield v. Cain, No. 13-1433, concerned Kevan Brumfield, a Louisiana man who was sentenced to death in 1995 for killing a Baton Rouge police officer. Seven years later, in Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court barred the execution of the intellectually disabled.
Mr. Brumfield sought to be spared on that ground, but was denied a hearing. A state judge reasoned that the evidence submitted at Mr. Brumfield’s trial was sufficient to resolve the issue against him even though he had not argued that his intellectual disability was a reason to bar his execution.
A federal trial judge disagreed. After a seven-day hearing, the judge concluded that Mr. Brumfeld’s I.Q. and limited abilities to perform basic functions proved that he was disabled. The United States…

Malaysian sentenced to hang for murder of two UK medical students

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Kuala Lumpur (AFP) - A Malaysian court convicted and sentenced a local fishmonger to death on Tuesday for the murder of two British medical students last year, his defence lawyer said.
Zulkipli Abdullah, 24, was found guilty of stabbing to death Neil Dalton and Aidan Brunger in the city of Kuching last August after an argument in a bar.
"He was found guilty. The judge accepted the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses," Zulkipli's lawyer Anthony Tai told AFP.
The two victims, both 22 years old, were students from Britain's Newcastle University who were on a six-week work placement with a local hospital in the city, located in Borneo island's Sarawak state.
Police have said the two students were found dead on the morning of August 6 following an argument with several local men that began in a Kuching bar.
Five Malaysian men were later arrested but only Zulkipli was charged.
Police had said earlier that the four others would not face charges but would appear as…

American Pharmacists Association votes against supply of lethal injection drugs

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Death penalty opponents hail ethics ruling that could further restrict availability and increase pressure on state authorities to halt capital punishment
A leading association for US pharmacists has told its members they should not provide drugs for use in lethal injections — a move that could make carrying out executions even harder for death penalty states.
The declaration approved by American Pharmacists Association delegates at a meeting in San Diego says the practice of providing lethal-injection drugs is contrary to the role of pharmacists as healthcare providers.
The association lacks legal authority to bar its members from selling execution drugs but its policies set pharmacists’ ethical standards.
Pharmacists now join doctors and anaesthesiologists [and nurses - DPN] in having national associations with ethics codes that call on members not to participate in executions.
“Now there is unanimity among all health professions in the United States who represent anybody who might b…

Report: 3 sentenced to death in Ohio in 2014

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An annual report on capital punishment in Ohio says three people were condemned to die last year, bringing the total number under Ohio's 1981 law to 323 death sentences.
The report by Attorney General Mike DeWine says 53 inmates have been executed, 19 have had their sentences reduced to prison time, and 26 have died before execution from suicide or natural causes.
The report released Monday says Ohio has 146 active death penalty cases, including James Conway of Columbus, who received two death sentences for different slayings.
Death sentences are increasingly rare in Ohio and nationwide as prosecutors file fewer death penalty cases and juries choose the option of life without parole.
No executions are scheduled this year.
Source: Associated Press, March 30, 2015

Backup of men awaiting execution is building
Midway through Ohio's 2-year death penalty moratorium, a backup of men awaiting execution is building.
There are 20 inmates either scheduled for execution or for whom prosec…

Tennessee may not have chemicals it needs for executions

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NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Corrections will not say if it has the chemicals needed to execute inmates via lethal injection.
Attorneys for inmates challenging the state's protocol say the drugs are not on hand. And an opportunity for the attorneys to ask prison supervisors about the drug supply did not take place as planned Friday because of a canceled court hearing.
As an increasing number of national medical organizations oppose participation in the controversial executions, it could be a challenge for Tennessee to find the drugs it needs.
"It's certainly clear that it has become more difficult for states to find the drugs that their protocols say they are supposed to use," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty. "What the response to that will be is unclear."
Drug supply
Attorneys for Tennessee and attorneys for more than 30 death-row inmates — who are challenging the st…

California: As death row runs out of room, Brown eyes space of those newly sprung

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With no executions in nearly a decade and newly condemned men arriving each month, the nation's largest death row has run out of room.
Warning that there is little time to lose, Gov. Jerry Brown is asking the California Legislature for $3.2 million to open nearly 100 more cells for condemned men at San Quentin State Prison.
The proposed expansion would take advantage of cells made available as the state releases low-level drug offenders and thieves under a new law voters approved last year.
California's death penalty has been the subject of a decade of litigation. One case led to a halt to executions in 2006. Another resulted in a federal judge's ruling last July that the state's interminably slow capital appeals system is unconstitutionally cruel. Through it all, the death row population has grown from 646 in 2006 to 751 today.
"Until the litigation is resolved, this cost-effective proposal allows [the state corrections department] to safely house condemned inma…

Mary Jane Veloso: How a 30-year-old Filipina ended up on death row in Indonesia

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Mary Jane Veloso, 30, was caught trafficking drugs when her flight from Malaysia landed in Jogjakarta in April 2010. She had on her 2.6 kilograms of heroin with a street value of US$500,000.
She was sentenced to death in October 2010 and the Philippine government has vowed to exhaust all means to save her. 
Her initial appeal for judicial review — she says she did not have a capable interpreter during her trial — was rejected last week and on Friday we reported that Indonesia is preparing to move her for execution
A second petition will be filed by the Philippine government.
Veloso's plight comes on the heels of another high-profile drug-trafficking case in Indonesia involving Bali Nine, a group called as such because its conspirators are [nine Australians arrested on 17 April 2005 in Bali, Indonesia, for planning to smuggle 8.3 kg of heroin valued at around 3.1 million US dollars from Indonesia to Australia.]
The alleged masterminds, Australian citizens Andrew Chan and Myuran…

Court has right to rule on Bali duo challenge says legal expert

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Indonesia’s judiciary have the right to rule on the execution challenge by Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, according to a legal expert.
The lawyers fighting to save the lives of the Bali Nine ring leaders returned to court today to challenge the Indonesian president’s rejection of their pleas for mercy.
They presented an expert defence in an attempt to show that judges have the right to rule on the clemency issue, despite an earlier ruling to the contrary.
Sukumaran and Chan were sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.
Their appeals for clemency, typically the final chance to avoid the firing squad, were recently rejected by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who has taken a hard line against traffickers.
The men, in their early 30s, were moved this month from jail on Bali to Nusakambangan prison island off Java, where Indonesian authorities plan to execute them along with several other foreign drug convicts.
In the latest attempt to save the men fro…

Catholics on Left and Right Find Common Ground Opposing Death Penalty

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As the editor of The National Catholic Reporter, a national biweekly, Dennis Coday reads his competitor, The National Catholic Register. But he does not have to agree with it.
The Reporter is seen as somewhat liberal in theology and politics. The Register, a competing biweekly with a confusingly similar name, is popular with more theologically traditional Roman Catholics, who often fall to the right politically.
But last year, seeing the amount of attention that The Register was giving to arguments opposing the death penalty, Mr. Coday came up with an idea: Maybe the 2 newspapers could collaborate on an editorial calling on Catholics to oppose the death penalty.
"What struck me the most was Oklahoma Archbishop Paul Coakley came out strongly against it," Mr. Coday said. "And his comments were covered by The National Catholic Register."
Indeed, The Register had covered Catholic death-penalty opposition last May, after the botched execution of an Oklahoma inmate, Cla…

Defense moves into spotlight in Boston Marathon bombing trial

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The Boston Marathon bombing trial shifts sharply in tone next week when prosecutors rest their case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and turn proceedings over to his lawyers, who have already admitted he planted explosives at the finish line in April 2013.
One of Tsarnaev's lawyers, death penalty specialist Judy Clarke, opened the trial on March 4 with a blunt statement to the jury that "it was him" who killed 3 people and injured 264 in the attack.
Clarke contended, however, that the 21-year-old played a secondary role to his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in planning and executing the plot.
Her goal: Persuade jurors in federal court in Boston that Tsarnaev deserves a sentence of life in prison rather than the death penalty.
It is an argument the defense team, which includes death penalty specialist David Bruck and Boston's top court-appointed lawyer, Miriam Conrad, will not be able to make in earnest until the jury decides if Tsarnaev is guilty.
Until then, they are l…

Iran: 12 prisoners secretly executed in a day

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The Iranian regime's henchmen secretly hanged at least 12 inmates on Thursday (26 March 2015) in prisons in cities of Shiraz and Mashhad.
A group of 5 prisoners were hanged in a prison in the city of Mashhad in northeast Iran while another 6 were collectively hanged in Pirnia Prison in the city of Shiraz in southern Iran. 
On the same day, another prisoner was also hanged in Adelabad Prison in the same city.
In Shiraz, the prisoners were transferred to solitary confinements two days prior to the Iranian New Year (Nowruz), therefore, the victims spent the New Year's day in isolation awaiting execution.
The religious dictatorship ruling Iran has refrained from publishing any report or information on the prisoners.
The growing number of executions, including many carried out in secret, are just trivial examples of the nationwide repression that continues to take place in Iran since Hassan Rouhani became president of the clerical regime.
Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporte…

Final hearing tomorrow for migrant worker tortured and sentenced to death in the UAE

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The Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi will tomorrow give a final verdict in the case of an Indian migrant worker who was sentenced to death on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted under torture.
Ezhur Gangadharan, a father of three who works in the UAE to support his family in Kerala, India, was arrested in 2013 in connection with the rape of a minor at the school where he worked for 32 years. Upon arrest, Mr Gangadharan was repeatedly tortured by police. He was reportedly told that if he did not confess to committing the crime, the abuse would continue. The injuries Mr Gangadharan sustained were detailed in two medical reports submitted at trial. There was no physical or DNA evidence linking Mr Gangadharan to the crime. A number of other Indian nationals were also detained in relation to the offence.
In 2014 the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi vacated Mr Gangadharan’s death sentence because the lower court had not considered his torture at the hands of police. The Supreme Court asked t…