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Showing posts from April, 2017

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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…

'Horrifying' death of fourth man executed in Arkansas leads to demands for inquiry

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The execution of Kenneth Williams in the US state of Arkansas on Thursday (27 April) has stirred a controversy after his lawyers called for an inquiry alleging that the lethal injection procedure was "horrifying".
The development came after witnesses of the procedure said that the 38-year-old convulsed and groaned as he was being executed, the BBC reported.
Media persons who witnessed the procedure said that the convicted murderer coughed, trembled, lurched and jerked about 15 times after he received the first of three lethal injections.
He was pronounced dead at 23.05 local time (05.05 BST), which "resulted in disturbing signs of distress on the part of the prisoner", reports said.
Williams' last words were "I humbly extend my apologies to those families I have senselessly wronged".
The Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, has dismissed the allegations and said, "I see no reason for any investigation other than the routine review th…

Merkel in Saudi Arabia: Chancellor must help juveniles who face beheading

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been urged to use a visit to Saudi Arabia today to press for the release of three juveniles who face beheading for allegedly attending protests.
Mrs Merkel is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia today for talks focused on issues of 'mutual interest', including German cooperation with Saudi security forces.
The visit takes place amid fears for three prisoners who were arrested as children in 2012, tortured by Saudi police, and sentenced to death on charges that relate to political protests.
Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon were sentenced to beheading and, in Ali’s case, ‘crucifixion’ despite their being 17, 15, and 17 respectively at the time of their arrest. 
All three juveniles were convicted on the strength of their forced ‘confessions’. They could be executed at any time.
In January 2016, German officials condemned the execution of 47 people en masse by the Saudi authorities, including several juveniles. 
At least one juven…

The banal horror of Arkansas' executions

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With the state’s supply of the sedative midazolam due to expire, the proposed schedule came to resemble a lethal clearance sale.
By the opaque reasoning of capital punishment, the state of Arkansas grew some unknowable fraction safer last Monday evening, when Jack Jones, a fifty-two-year-old, overweight, hypertensive, diabetic amputee, was strapped to a gurney in the Cummins Unit prison and administered drugs to successively sedate him, impair his breathing, stop his heart, and kill him. According to the state’s timeline, the process was a model of efficiency, taking only fourteen minutes to complete—less time than one might spend registering a vehicle at the Little Rock D.M.V. This was significant, as the night’s work was just getting started. Arkansas was staging the first double execution in the United States since 2000. Three hours later, Marcel Williams, a forty-six-year-old man who also suffered from diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, was strapped to the same gurney, injected …

Bali Nine member Michael Czugaj reveals how Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran changed his life

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The youngest member of the infamous Bali Nine drug ring has spoken out about his agony on the second anniversary of the deaths of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
Michael Czugaj was only 19 when he was arrested and thrown into a Balinese prison cell after he was found with 1.75kg of heroin strapped to his body at Denpasar Airport in 2005.
He was sentenced to life behind bars and the now 31-year-old was locked in Kerobokan Prison where fellow drug mules Chan and Sukumaran spent their last days.
Czugaj has held onto a glimmer of hope in the crowded, sweaty prison that he may be able to return home to Australia one day.
'I had many dark periods over the years and they helped me… took me under their wing,' Czugaj told Fairfax Media.
'I miss them. I want to live and I want to get home... for them and for myself.'
The former drug trafficker also laments that 'it could have been him' when he speaks about the brutal execution of the two Bali Nine members.
Chan and Su…

Arkansas executes Kenneth Williams

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State puts 4th inmate to death in 8 days
Witnesses describe execution; inmate was 'striving for breath,' AP editor says
3 minutes after his lethal injection began, Arkansas inmate Kenneth Williams began coughing, convulsing and lurching with sound that was audible even with a microphone turned off, media witnesses to his execution said.
State news editor Kelly Kissel said that Williams' body lurched forward at 10:55 p.m., 3 minutes after the midazolam was administered. He described the movement as "when you're on a bumpy road and you hit a bump." Williams lurched forward 15 times in a period of 10 to 15 seconds, Kissel said.
He then lurched forward more slowly 5 times and began "striving for breath," according to witnesses.
The "labored breathing" continued until 10:59 p.m., Kissel said.
An attendant performed a consciousness check at 10:57 p.m., checking Williams' pupils.
Williams was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m.
Kissel, who has witn…

Arkansas: Victim's family asks for state to spare murderer's life

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OZARK, Mo. (KSPR) - The family of a man from the Ozarks who was killed by an escaped murderer almost two decades ago said they do not want his killer to be executed.
"I believe justice has already been served. He hasn't been able to kill anyone else. Executing him is more of revenge," said Stacey Yaw, who was Michael Greenwood’s wife.
Kenneth Williams is set to die on Thursday. He's one of eight inmates who Arkansas scheduled for execution by the end of the month before its supply of a key execution drug expires. 
Four of the eight condemned men got judicial reprieves; three of them were put to death; only Williams is still set for execution.
Michael Greenwood of Springfield and his wife had just found out they were expecting twins when Williams escaped from an Arkansas prison. Williams led law enforcement officers on a chase in a stolen truck and crashed into Greenwood's work truck near Urbana, north of Buffalo, and killed Greenwood.
Now Greenwood's family …

Four militants executed in Pakistan

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Military courts have sentenced 161 militants to death penalty since 2014 following Peshawar school attack
Another 4 militants, convicted by military courts for their involvement in terrorism, have been executed at a jail in northwestern Pakistan, an army spokesman said on Tuesday.
"Another 4 hardcore terrorists involved in committing heinous offenses relating to terrorism, including the killing of innocent civilians, attacking armed forces of Pakistan and law enforcement agencies have been executed at a jail in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa [northwestern province]," the spokesman said in a statement.
The executed convicts Rehman ud Din, Mushtaq Khan, Obaid ur Rehman, and Zafar Iqbal were members of the Pakistani Taliban coalition, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Pakistan established controversial military courts to try "hardcore" militants following a deadly gun-and-bomb attack on an army-run school in Peshawar in December 2014, which claimed the lives of over 140 people, mo…

30 Men Arrested For 'Sodomy' In Iran Face Death Penalty if Convicted: Reports

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More than 30 men were arrested after a private party in the Bahadoran region of Isfahan, Iran was raided by the police, Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees reported Thursday.

Their charges are sodomy, drinking alcohol and using psychedelic drugs and they face the death penalty if found guilty.
The men, between the ages of 16 and 30, the Canadian charity reports, were rounded up late April 13 amid gunshots and beatings from police, according to the Jerusalem Post.
"IRQR received several reports in last few days and were able to confirm that police attacked guests and physically beat them. Police detained them all at the Basij (Revolutionary Guard Militia) Station and then transferred them to Esfahan's Dastgerd Prison.

A few people managed to escape and we received reports that there were several heterosexual individuals among those arrested," IRQR reported.
IRQR also reported that those arrested were forced to name their LGBT friends to authorities. In Iran, homosexualit…

Arkansas executes Jack Harold Jones and Marcel Willilams

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Jack Harold Jones was put to death by the state of Arkansas Monday night by way of lethal injection.
Authorities began administering the execution drugs at 7:06 p.m. and Jones was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m., according to the Arkansas Department of Correction.
Asked if he had any last words, Jones said the following:
"Well, I just want to let the James family and Lacey [know] how sorry I am. I can't believe I did something to her. I tried to be respectful from the time I took and become a better person. I hope I did better. I hope over time you could learn who I really am and I am not a monster. There was a reason why those things happened that day. I am so sorry Lacey, try to understand I love you like my child."
Jones also gave a written statement to his attorney to read:
"I want people to know that when I came to prison I made up my mind that I would be a better person when I left than when I came in. I had no doubt in my mind that I would make every effort to …

Neil Gorsuch and the State’s Power to Kill

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It’s not entirely fair to judge a Supreme Court justice based on his first vote. Urgent matters arise unexpectedly, and the court must sometimes act quickly.
Still, it’s worth paying special attention to Justice Neil Gorsuch’s vote late Thursday night to deny a stay of execution for Ledell Lee, an Arkansas man who was sentenced to death in 1995 for murdering a woman named Debra Reese with a tire thumper.
After Justice Gorsuch, along with the four other conservative justices, denied his final appeal without explanation, Mr. Lee, who maintained his innocence until the end, was executed by lethal injection.
He was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. Central Daylight Time, minutes before his death warrant expired. Arkansas had not executed anyone since 2005.
In short, the first significant decision by Justice Gorsuch, who was sworn in to office less than two weeks ago, was the most consequential any justice can make — to approve a man’s killing by the state.
That man, like so many others conde…

Bearing Witness to Executions: Last Breaths and Lasting Impressions

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VARNER, Ark. — They often enter in silence. They almost always leave that way, too.
The death penalty holds a crucial, conflicted place in a nation deeply divided over crime and punishment, and whether the state should ever take a life. But for such a long, very public legal process, only a small number of people see what unfolds inside the country’s death houses.
Witnesses hear a condemned prisoner’s last words and watch a person’s last breaths. Then they scatter, usually into the night. There is no uniformity when they look back on the emotions that surround the minutes when they watched someone die.
The most recent person to be executed, Ledell Lee, died at the Cummins Unit here in southeast Arkansas late Thursday. By next Friday morning, the state hopes to have executed three more men.
In separate phone interviews, five people who have witnessed executions — some years ago, one as recently as Mr. Lee’s — reflected on what they had seen and what it meant to them.
The interviews ha…