Tuesday, September 2, 2014

DNA evidence could exonerate two in North Carolina death row case

Two North Carolina men who have been behind bars for 30 years, one of them on death row, will go before a judge on Tuesday morning to present new DNA evidence of their innocence of the murder and rape for which they were convicted as teenagers in 1984.

Lawyers representing Henry McCollum, who faces execution, and his half-brother Leon Brown, serving a life sentence for the brutal 1983 killing of an 11-year-old girl, will call for the pair to be released and cleared of all convictions. They will show the court recent DNA test results that exclude both men as the source of biological material gathered at the crime scene but record a positive match to the genetic profile of another man who has a long criminal record for sexual offences in the area.

The other man, Roscoe Artis, is serving a life sentence for a separate yet remarkably similar rape and murder that occurred in the same small town of Red Springs three weeks after McCollum and Brown were arrested. Artis was living at the time a few hundred feet from the field in which the body of the 11-year-old girl, Sabrina Buie, was found.

The hearing, which is scheduled to last several days, is the first major opportunity for McCollum, now 50, and Brown, 46, to prove the innocence they have always professed. Brown’s attorney, James Payne, said they were hopeful that at the very least both men will be released pending a new trial, though he added that in his view the DNA evidence was strong enough to have them immediately exonerated.

Source: The Guardian, September 2, 2014

Saudi executes 4 people for drug smuggling

Public execution in KSA
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday that it executed another four people it says were found guilty of trying to illegally smuggle large quantities of pills and hashish into the kingdom.

That brings to 45 the number of people executed this year in Saudi Arabia, according to an Associated Press tally. Thirty of those were executed over the past four weeks alone.

The interior ministry said that three of the men executed were Syrian and the fourth is Iranian. No further details were released. Executions in Saudi Arabia are usually carried out by beheadings with a sword or by firing squad. Sometimes the executions are held in public.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. It follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law and applies the death penalty on a number of crimes, such as murder, rape and drug smuggling. Though not common, crimes of apostasy and witchcraft can carry death sentences.

Human Rights Watch, which opposes capital punishment in all countries under all circumstances, said last month that these executions in Saudi Arabia are "another dark stain on the kingdom's human rights record."

"Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Source: AP, Sept. 2, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

India: Rights watchdog slams large number of death sentences

President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected 97% of the mercy petitions since assuming the top office in 2012, a human rights watch group has said, stressing that death penalty has failed to act as a deterrent in the country.

Mukherjee, who assumed office on July 25, 2012, considered 23 mercy pleas involving 31 death-row convicts out of which only one was granted mercy as on August 31, 2014, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) said in its report titled 'India: Death penalty has no deterrence'.

The Delhi-based ACHR is a non-governmental organisation engaged in protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Asian region.

Mukherjee's decisions are in sharp contrast to those of his predecessor Pratibha Patil, who granted a record 30 pardons, over 90 per cent of India's total death sentences pardoned ever. She rejected only two mercy pleas during her tenure.

Mostly awarded in murder cases, death penalty is now also given to repeat offenders in rape cases.

ACHR Director Suhas Chakma, however, said that high number of death penalty has not brought down crime rate.

"The empirical evidence of the government of India, however, establishes that death penalty does not act as deterrent," said Chakma, who is also coordinator of the national campaign for abolition of death penalty in India.

The ACHR said the government should "amend all the laws that provide death penalty" and replace the same with life imprisonment.

Source: The Hindustan Times, Sept. 1, 2014

Bahrain: Death Sentence Affirmed

Manama, Aug 31 (BNA) – Chief Prosecutor, Muhanna Al-Shaeji, has stated that the Supreme Court of Appeal has affirmed the death penalty sentence issued against an accused in the murder of policeman Mohammed Asif, in Sihla neighborhood. 

The same court rejected appeals filed by two suspects, and sentenced the rest of suspects to 10 years imprisonment.

The case dates back to last February when nine defendants had perpetrated a campaign targeting all policemen within reach with murderous intentions. 

The first defendant requested from the ninth defendant – both brothers – to provide him with a flare gun used on ships by his employers, a maritime company, specifically for use against policemen.

After providing the crime weapon, defendants staged a riot and some sabotage acts to lure in policemen in Al-Khamis area on February 14, 2013, where a number of officers were targeted with Molotov cocktails and stones. 

Amidst the staged clashes, the first defendant targeted the victim, Khan, with a flare dart shot straight to the gut, where it exploded, causing him an instant death.

Source: Bahrain News Agency, August 31, 2014

Mississippi officials unclear when next execution might be

JACKSON, Miss. - Mississippi hasn’t had an execution in two years, and state Atty. Gen. Jim Hood says he can’t predict when another might occur.

No Mississippi death row appeals are presently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.

“We usually make predictions on timing based on cases pending before that court,” Hood told The Associated Press last week.

“There is no way to really know an exact time line on any of these type cases,” he said. “They are all making their way through the system at various paces. We have some nearing the end of their normal track of appeals, but there is just no way to know when we might have a case that would warrant the filing of a motion to set an execution date.”

Mississippi’s longest-serving inmates still have appeals moving through state and federal courts, as Hood noted.

Richard Gerald Jordan, 68, has been on death row the longest — 37 years calculated from his date of conviction, according to Department of Corrections’ records. Jordan was convicted of capital murder committed in the course of a kidnapping.

James Billiot, 53, has been on death row 31 years. He was convicted of using a sledgehammer to kill his mother, stepfather and 14-year-old stepsister.

Roger Thorson, 56, has been on death row 25 years. He was sentenced to die for killing a former girlfriend on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Source: The Commercial Appeal, Jack Elliott Jr., August 31, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

VP makes plea for 2 Pinoys on death row

Vice President Jejomar Binay on Saturday called on the Department of Foreign Affairs to extend full assistance to 2 Filipinos sentenced to die in Vietnam for trafficking in illegal drugs.

Binay, who is also the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers' Concerns said that Emmanuel Sillo Camacho, 39, was found guilty by a Hanoi Court for carrying 18 packets of cocaine which weighed 3.4 kilograms.

Another Filipino, Donna Buenagua Mazon, 39, was earlier sentenced to die in Ho Chi Minh City after being caught with 1.5 kilograms of Cocaine in December 2013.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose assured the Vice President that his department will extend all necessary consular and legal assistance to the 2 Filipino nationals.

"Our Embassy in Hanoi will extend to them all necessary and appropriate assistance - consular and legal," Jose told the reporters on Saturday.

However, Jose admitted that they have yet to receive such incident from our Consular Affairs office.

Jose stressed that the Philippine embassy in Hanoi is duty-bound and ready to assist Camacho and Mazon.

Jose said that the government respects the Judicial process of Vietnam and assured the public that the department will provide legal counsel for the 2 to represent them in court.

"Part of our consular assistance is to make sure that they will be entitled due process and their rights would not be violated," Jose said. "Of course we don't meddle in Vietnam's judicial process."

Binay said the 2 Filipinos can appeal their case.

"From my understanding, their convictions are not yet final and executory and they can still file for appeal," the Vice President said.

Jose agreed with the Vice President and assured that they will exert all possible ways to help the Filipinos file a petition.

The Vice President reiterated his warning to Filipinos, especially those going abroad, that it was not worth taking the risk to traffic illegal drugs into foreign countries.

"Lives are at stake here and no amount of money can compensate for a lost life," he said.

"Modern and sophisticated equipment can now easily detect drugs. Do not take the chance," he added.

If the execution of the 2 pushes through, it would be Vietnam's 1st execution of foreign nationals in decades.

Vietnam maintains some of the world's toughest anti-drug laws and anyone found guilty of possessing more than 600 grams of heroin, or more than 20 kilograms of opium, draws the death penalty.

Source: Manila Standard Today, August 30, 2014

Clayton Lockett didn't die of heart attack, Oklahoma official autopsy shows

The official autopsy report into the death of Clayton Lockett, whose botched execution by Oklahoma sparked a nationwide debate on capital punishment, has revealed that state officials riddled him with puncture marks in an attempt to find a vein into which they could inject lethal drugs.

Though the report does not settle the question of how Lockett died, concluding only that the cause of death was “judicial execution by lethal injection”, it does underline the extraordinary lengths to which the execution team went in trying to kill him. It records evidence of 16 needle puncture marks in locations all over his body – from his upper chest and jugular region, to his upper arm, elbow pit, wrist, groin and foot.

A more complete understanding of what went wrong in the 29 April execution may be given by the official inquiry into what happened that was ordered by Oklahoma’s governor Mary Fallin. The state has indicated that it will release the report within the next few days.

Lockett, 38, was sentenced to death for the 2000 kidnapping, rape and murder of Stephanie Neiman. He was injected with a cocktail of three drugs – midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride – but the execution went badly wrong, and it was 43 minutes before he was pronounced dead.

During that time he was witnessed writhing and groaning on the gurney.

An earlier independent autopsy carried out on Lockett’s body arrived at sharper conclusions than the official report. It noted evidence of failed attempts to insert IVs into the prisoner’s veins despite there being “excellent integrity of peripheral and deep veins for the purpose of achieving venous access”.

The finding that Lockett had “excellent integrity” of his veins was in contradiction to the claim made by state officials that the prisoner’s veins had “exploded” during the procedure. It also suggested possible incompetence on the part of the execution team in inserting the IV lines.

The official autopsy released Tuesday, carried out by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences at Dallas in Texas, records no signs of any rupture in Lockett’s veins. Nor does it find anything to support the state’s initial claim that he died from a heart attack after the botched execution had been called off – Lockett was found to have minor impairments of his heart but no sign of any profound damage to the organ.

The report also notes “extensive” hemorrhaging in the soft tissue under the skin on the right side of his groin. That suggests a possible cause of the complications behind the botched execution – that an IV might have been improperly inserted in his groin leading to the lethal drugs being injected into his flesh rather than into his vascular system.

Source: The Guardian, August 28, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Japan: Two Death Row Inmates Hanged; 10th and 11th Executions Since Abe Took Office

Death Chamber at Tokyo's Detention Center
TOKYO — Japan executed a mobster and a killer arsonist on Friday, bringing to 11 the total number of death sentences carried out since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power in 2012.

The executions came days before Abe is expected to reshuffle his cabinet amid speculation that he will appoint a new justice minister, whose approval is needed for any sentence to be carried out.

“I ordered the executions after careful consideration,” Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters.

The executed men were both multiple killers.

Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59, a gang boss in the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest yakuza grouping, was convicted of shooting three people dead between 2001 and 2005, the justice ministry said.

Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, a 56-year-old former taxi driver, was convicted of killing five people and seriously injuring four others in 2001 by setting fire to a consumer loan office, in Aomori, northern Japan.

Surveys have shown the death penalty has overwhelming public support in Japan, despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

The government did not execute anyone in 2011, the first full year in nearly two decades without an execution amid muted debate on the rights and wrongs of the practice.

But in March 2012 it abruptly resumed its use of capital punishment, dispatching three multiple murderers.

International advocacy groups say Japan’s system is cruel because inmates can wait for their executions for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending death a few hours ahead of time.

There have been a number of high-profile miscarriages of justice exposed in recent years, including the case of Iwao Hakamada, who was released from jail in March, aged 78, after decades on death row for a multiple murder he did not commit.

Hakamada, who was believed to be the world’s longest-serving death row inmate, was the victim of a flawed investigation in which evidence was fabricated.

Japan now has 125 inmates on death row, according to local media.

Source: Agence France-Presse, August 29, 2014

Secret execution as authorities ignore calls for reform

Execution chamber
at Tokyo Detention Center
Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59 were hanged in Japan early on Friday morning

The execution of 2 men in Japan on Friday flies in the face of growing calls in the country to halt the use of capital punishment, said Amnesty International.

Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59 were hanged early on Friday morning. Kobayashi was executed at Sendai detention centre and Takamizawa at Tokyo detention centre. Both had been convicted of murder.

"It is chilling that the Japanese authorities continue to send people to the gallows despite serious questions over the use of the death penalty in the country," said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

A lack of adequate legal safeguards for people facing the death penalty in Japan has been widely criticized. This includes defendants being denied adequate legal counsel from the time of arrest, a lack of a mandatory appeal process for capital cases and detention in prolonged solitary confinement.

Several prisoners suffering from mental illness are also known to have been executed or remain on death row.

"This state-sanctioned killing is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment. The government should halt all future executions as a 1st step towards abolition," said Hiroka Shoji.

The latest executions bring the total executed in Japan in 2014 to 3. Since Prime Minister Abe's government took office in December 2012 11 people have now been hanged, whilst a total of 127 people remain on death row.

"Human rights are being side-lined under Prime Minister Abe's government. The past 2 years has been marked by a series of regressive steps, including the refusal to act on UN bodies' calls to address human rights violations," said Hiroka Shoji.

Serious flaws over the use of the death penalty in Japan were underlined in March, when a court ordered the temporary release of Hakamada Iwao, who spent more than four decades on death row after an unfair trial.

Prosecutors have appealed the decision to grant Hakamada a retrial, despite the court stating that the police were likely to have fabricated evidence.

Executions in Japan are shrouded in secrecy with prisoners typically given only a few hours' notice, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Source: Amnesty International, August 29, 2014

Japan hangs 2 death-row inmates, 10th, 11th executions under Abe gov't

Japan hanged 2 death-row inmates Friday, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said, the 10th and 11th executions since the December 2012 launch of the government headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The 2 were Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, who was convicted of killing 5 people in a 2001 attack on an office of moneylender Takefuji Corp., and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59, a former gangster convicted of killing 3.

Tanigaki told a press conference that a justice minister needs to abide by the law, and Japan maintains the death penalty, in answer to a question about the U.N. Commission on Human Rights which urged Japan in July to review its capital punishment system.

Asked why he issued the execution order only a few days before a Cabinet reshuffle scheduled for next Wednesday, Tanigaki said he is required to perform his duties as justice minister.

He has previously stated that the public supports capital punishment and there is no need to review the death penalty system.

The number of death-row inmates executed under Tanigaki is now the 2nd most under the orders of a single justice minister since 1993 when Japan resumed executions. 13 were hanged under orders from Kunio Hatoyama, the justice minister from 2007 to 2008.

Kobayashi, a former taxi driver executed at the Sendai detention house in northeastern Japan, was sentenced to death for robbery and murder after setting fire to a Takefuji office in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, in May 2001 when his demand for a loan was rejected.

Takefuji later went under in 2010 and its moneylending business was taken over by Nihon Hoshou Co.

The Aomori District Court sentenced Kobayashi to death in February 2003, a ruling upheld by the Sendai High Court in February 2004 and by the Supreme Court in March 2007.

Kobayashi, who denied any intention to kill, filed pleas for a retrial 3 times seeking the application of robbery resulting in death, not murder, but his pleas were rejected. His conviction stood as of Aug. 6 this year.

Takamizawa, who was executed at the Tokyo detention house, was sentenced to death for murdering the head of a rival gang in Annaka, Gunma Prefecture, and two others between 2001 and 2005.

In October 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Takamizawa, who was head of a gang affiliated with Japan's biggest yakuza group, the Yamaguchi-gumi.

Anti-death penalty organizations, such as Amnesty International Japan, criticized the executions, saying the Justice Ministry hanged the 2 death-row inmates ahead of the planned Cabinet reshuffle next week.

Hideki Wakabayashi, secretary general of Amnesty International Japan, told a news conference the timing could indicate the ministry was motivated to execute the 2 men ahead of the possible replacement of Tanigaki as justice minister next week.

Another group which seeks Japan's ratification of an international pact on the abolition of the death penalty, said the 2 executed men were considering seeking retrials and the Justice Ministry deprived them of their right to seek a retrial.

Source: Kyodo News International, August 29, 2014

Egypt: 2 Morsi supporters get death penalty, 43 others life in jail

Sentences from Minya court relate to violence that broke out last August, as part of nationwide unrest after Mohamed Morsi's ouster

An Egyptian court on Thursday sentenced two supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi to death and 43 others - including a minor - to jail terms from 1 year to life, in several cases relating to violence after Morsi's removal last summer, state-run news agency MENA said.

The Minya court - in Upper Egypt - also acquitted 28 others.

The sessions included a retrial for 23 defendants who were tried in absentia and sentenced to death and life in jail. Defendants in the case in Matay, Minya governorate, faced charges of attacking policemen and torching a police station.

The court also issued verdicts in 6 other cases, all in connection to retribution violence that broke out after the forceful dispersal of two main sit-ins held by Morsi supporters in Cairo and which left hundreds dead.

The same court previously sentenced 529 to death - later upholding the penalty for 37 defendants - and sentenced 492 others to life in prison. One month later, it sentenced 683 defendants to death, later confirming 183 of them.

Since Morsi's ouster, a security crackdown on his supporters has left hundreds killed and tens of thousands detained or facing trials, including the Muslim Brotherhood's top leadership.

The mass trials were criticised by local and international rights groups for hasty procedures.

Source: Ahram Online, August 29, 2014

Bali Nine clemency bids still 'in process'

The Bali Nine
Indonesia's president will not intervene in the case of two Australian men on death row, and his office says improved relations between Canberra and Jakarta will have no bearing on their fate.

A decision on Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, members of the so-called Bali Nine, has been in the hands of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for about two years.

There are hopes the president, who has given special focus to Indonesia's relationship with Australia, might grant clemency before he leaves office on October 20.

The signing of a new intelligence pact with Australia, which took place in Bali on Thursday, was seen as Dr Yudhoyono ensuring ties with Australia are in good shape before he departs.

But his spokesman on foreign affairs, Teuku Faizasyah, says the bilateral relationship is separate from the cases of the condemned Australians.

"It has nothing to do with bilateral relations," he told AAP on Friday.

"We respect the rule of law, and the executive cannot intervene in the judicial process, as similar to what happens in Australia."

Earlier in August, the governor of Kerobokan jail, where Chan and Sukumaran are incarcerated, revealed he had recommended all Bali Nine members have their sentences amended.

He said Chan and Sukumaran should serve life in prison, rather than receive the death penalty, and the others serving life should have lesser sentences.

The governor's advice will be handed to ministers who advise the president, but it's not known if Dr Yudhoyono will make a decision before he leaves office or whether it will fall to his successor, Joko Widodo.

An Amnesty International campaign for the woman, who is accused of killing her employer, has significant support within Indonesia.

Mr Faizasyah says the president understands why countries would seek clemency for citizens abroad.

"I remind you that the issue of drug smuggling, engaging in drugs, is a serious crime in Indonesia," he said.

"There are many factors that he must consider ... I cannot prejudge the outcome.

"But he fully understands that any government would try to seek clemency for their citizens."

The nine are serving their time in different jails in Bali and Java.

Renae Lawrence received the lightest sentence, 20 years, for her part in the foiled 2005 heroin-smuggling plot, and has won several reductions for good behaviour.

Source: AAP, August 29, 2014

Iran: Man hanged in public in Sarab; man pardoned in 1996 due for execution again

A man, identified only with his first name Daryoush, was hanged in prison in the western city of Sarab (East Azarbaijan province) on Wednesday, 27 August 2014.

The death sentence was implemented after head of the Judiciary, representing the Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, authorised it. 

The prisoner was accused of being the main culprit in killing a young man in a fight. His brother, Akbar, was convicted as his accomplice, but his sentence was not reported.

Source: Agencies, August 29, 2014

Iran: Man pardoned in 1996 due for execution again

A man identified only with his first name Niaz-Ali is facing the death penalty. He has been detained three weeks ago and sentenced to death for the second time. 

After being convicted for killing his business partner in 1992, he was sentenced to death and hanged in March 1996. The medics confirmed his death after 20 minutes of hanging, but he was found to be alive on the way to the Coroner's Office. 

The victim's parents withdrew their complaint after receiving financial compensation known as 'blood money,' and he was released from prison. 

The victim's son, who was two years old at the time, recently filed a new complaint and demanded a large amount of money (approximately US$120,000) as blood money. 

The execution is imminent upon the head of the Judiciary's authorisation. 

Source: Agencies, August 29, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Amnesty International calls on Yudhoyono to save Indonesian national from death row

Global rights organization Amnesty International (AI) is urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to postpone the execution of Siti Zainab binti Duhri Rupa, an Indonesian migrant worker on death row.

AI said it had sent a letter to Yudhoyono to convey its response to information that Siti Zainab would be executed. Siti Zainab was sentenced to death for allegedly killing her employer in Saudi Arabia in 1999.

The organization said in its statement that it did not aim to ask for clemency for Siti Zainab’s alleged crime. “However, we also want to convey that we oppose death punishment regardless of the situation,” it said as quoted by kompas.com.

In its letter to President Yudhoyono, AI said it was the right and responsibility of a government in a country to bring an alleged criminal perpetrator to justice.

AI further said, however, that it opposed the death penalty, which it considered the most extreme form of torture. The death sentence also violated the right to live, as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, two international conventions that Indonesia had ratified, AI said.

“We hope that Mr President can call on the Saudi Arabian Kingdom authorities to change the sentence that has been imposed on her,” said the letter.

Siti Zainal is a migrant worker from Jl. Pasarean KH.M.Cholil in Martajasah village, Bangkalan, Madura, East Java. She departed for Saudi Arabia in 1997.

Source: The Jakarta Post, August 27, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Oklahoma: Lawsuit Filed To Allow Media To Witness Entire Executions

Oklahoma Corrections officials are being sued for violating the constitution in the botched execution of Clayton Lockett.

2 newspapers, the Oklahoma Observer and The Guardian U.S., filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court today, naming the DOC Director Robert Patton and the warden of the state penitentiary, Anita Trammell, as defendants.

The suit alleges, in the execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014, the plaintiffs - and the news media as a whole - were prevented from witnessing the entire process, as is provided for in both the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions.

Specifically, the suit points to the fact that the shade between the viewing room and the execution chamber was not opened until 6:23 p.m., more than an hour after Lockett had been brought into the chamber. According to the post-incident report provided by the Department of Corrections, it was during that period that a phlebotomist struggled to insert the IV that would deliver the lethal drugs to Lockett.

"By preventing witnesses from gaining access to the lethal injection proceeding until after the condemned has been fully prepared for the provision of lethal drugs," the plaintiffs stated in the filing, "Defendants obstructed Plaintiffs' access to the execution and prohibited them from meaningfully reporting on the entire execution."

Further, the lawsuit notes that the shade was then drawn at 6:39, minutes after Lockett began showing signs of distress, without any public explanation. It was only later, at a news briefing, that DOC officials announced that Lockett had died at 7:06.

"[T]he state foreclosed access at the most critical juncture of the execution proceeding," attorneys stated in the lawsuit, "when it became apparent that the lethal injection proceeding diverged from the standard protocol."

An official with the ACLU of Oklahoma, which filed the lawsuit, says this violation goes to the heart of our belief that government is by the people and for the people.

"Regardless of where Oklahomans stand on the death penalty," said Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of ACLU Oklahoma, "I think we can all agree when the government is exercising its ultimate power - which is the intentional taking of a life - that that should not be done in secret."

The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration requiring the state make it clear in its execution protocol that the shade is to be opened as soon as the condemned is brought into the execution chamber, and not closed until there is either a declaration of death, or the execution is stayed.

And they want to get this before the next execution, which is scheduled for November 13.

The state has 20 days to respond.

Source: news9.com, August 26, 2014

Iran: 5 hanged including a citizen of Pakistan

5 men were hanged on Tuesday (August 26) in the main prison in city of Bandar-Abbas, southern Iran. 

1 of the prisoners is a Pakistani citizen who had been arrested in Iran for drug related offence.

On Monday, the authorities in Bandar Abbas prison had transferred the 5 men to solitary confinement to await their execution.

The prisoners were identified as: Edris Hassan Zadeh,35, Sajad Rezapour, 25, Mansour Hetdari, 33, Mohammad Balouch, 55, and Mehdi Hashemi.

Since Hassan Rouhani has assumed office as the president of the Iranian regime, there has been a rise in human rights violations in Iran. Some 800 have been executed in Iran during the past year in Iran, including many in public.

Source: NCR-Iran, August 27, 2014

Japanese Lawmaker On Trial In China For Drug Trafficking, Faces Death Penalty

Takuma Sakuragi, a 70-year-old Japanese politician, today went on trial for trafficking 3.3 kg of the drug methamphetamine. Sakuragi was arrested last year in the city of Guangzhou en route to Shanghai when local authorities found 28 bags of the narcotic in his luggage.

At the time of his October arrest, Sukuragi, said to be a city councilor in Aichi, Japan, told police the luggage in question came from a Nigerian business associate he met while in China. According to the arrest report, the African had given the Japanese lawmaker the suitcase where the drugs were concealed inside women's platform boots.

Local outlets report Sakuragi is standing trial with 2 other defendants, also from Africa. They were named as Aly Yattabare and Mohamed Soumah. Drug trafficking carries the death penalty per Chinese law. 4 Japanese citizens were executed in 2010 for possessing drugs, and China has recently instigated a harsh and well-publicized crackdown in its entertainment community for drug possession and usage.

Curiously, Sakuragi's Chinese lawyer, does not seem to be helping his client's case, or indeed, even be positive about it.

"[We are] attempting the impossible," Chen Weixiong is reported as saying. "The biggest challenge now is the fact that he did carry 3,200 grams of [drugs] in his bag.

"We are going to argue he was not aware of the existence of drugs," he continued. "We will try our best. The best outcome would be [an acquittal]."

Chen said defending the elderly politician made him feel like "Don Quixote", the eponymous protagonist of created by Spaniard novelist Miguel de Cervantes given to fantastical stories and tall tales.

Sakuragi does not have a sympathetic public in the Middle Kingdom. He is well-known as one of the most ardent supporters of Japan's claim to a set of small islets also that China considers part of its territory that has sent relations between Asia's biggest economies into a tailspin.

The trial is on-going.

Source: chinatopix.com, August 27, 2014

3 Mexicans Facing Death Penalty Prepare for Last Appeal in Malaysia

3 Mexican brothers sentenced to death in Malaysia are preparing to file their last appeal before the Federal Court in Malaysia, which could hold the hearing before the end of the year, the defense said.

"The hearing will most probably take place before the end of the year, the Federal Court judges have to review a lot of documents pertaining to the case," Kitson Foong, the lawyer of Mexicans Luis Alfonso, Simon and Jose Regino Gonzalez Villarreal, told Efe.

According to Foong, the brothers are being held in jail in the state of Pahang, some 185 km northwest of Kuala Lumpur.

The Mexicans were arrested on March 4, 2008 in a police raid in the southern city of Johor along with a Malaysian and a Singaporean citizen who have also been given the death penalty.

All 5 were found in the vicinity of a ship where police agents seized 29 kilograms of methamphetamine valued at $15 million, 1/3 of which disappeared in police custody.

The Gonzalez Villarreal brothers, natives of the state of Sinaloa, claim that they were only employed to clean the place and that they were not aware of the consignment.

The Malaysian prosecutor, however, says that traces of drugs were found on their clothes and their hands.

In May 2012, the Kuala Lumpur High Court sentenced the Mexicans to death by hanging, a ruling that was upheld by the Court of Appeal a year later.

The Federal Court is the only court where those convicted can appeal.

Although Sinaloa is known to be home to one of the largest drug cartels, the Gonzalez Villarreal brothers have no criminal records and belong to a humble family of 7 siblings, the youngest of whom died in a robbery.

Mexico's government, which opposes the death penalty, has said that "it will use all the means at its disposal" to revoke the death sentence handed to the 3 Mexicans.

Source: Latin American Herald Tribune, August 27, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nebraska 'too busy' to focus on death penalty

Corrections department has been busy with other issues, including questions over the early release of some inmates

Nebraska's attorney general says the state's corrections department has been too busy dealing with other problems to focus on resolving drug shortages that have halted executions in the state, which hasn't carried out the death penalty in 17 years.

Attorney General Jon Bruning told The Associated Press he's confident Nebraska will resume executions but it could be years before officials can work out a new approach using different drugs or a new supplier.

He notes the corrections department has been busy with other issues, including questions over the early release of some inmates.

Nebraska lost its only approved method to carry out executions when its supply of one drug used in the process expired in December.

Source: Associated Press, August 25, 2014

Oklahoma: An Execution, Censored

Oklahoma Death Chamber
On April 29, 2014, Clayton Lockett was scheduled to die by lethal injection at the hands of the State of Oklahoma. Under a state law that requires public witnesses to all executions, 12 journalists gathered to observe his death.

They never saw it.

Before the scheduled execution, the reporters were ushered into a media room where a glass partition, covered by a "viewing blind," separated them from the execution chamber. When the blind opened, Clayton Lockett lay before them strapped to a gurney. He had already been in there for almost an hour, getting poked with needles until a member of the execution team - of unknown training and background - finally set an IV line in Lockett's femoral vein, near his groin. Preliminary findings suggest this femoral IV played a role in Lockett's prolonged and torturous execution. Since there were no witnesses, we have only the state's account of how properly these IV procedures were carried out.

But that's certainly not all that journalists were barred from seeing. Right after the blind was raised, the warden announced that the injection process was to begin: First came the drug intended to render Lockett unconscious. 7 minutes later, at 6:30 p.m., a doctor in the room checked Lockett for consciousness; he was awake. At 6:33 p.m., he checked again; the state's account claims the "offender was unconscious." So Oklahoma began the process of injecting Lockett with the 2nd drug (a paralytic), and the 3rd drug, intended to induce cardiac arrest.

But Lockett most certainly didn't remain unconscious while the execution team administered these drugs. Multiple media reports document that Lockett began to moan and writhe on the gurney in clear distress. And how did state officials respond? They lowered the blind. At 6:42 p.m., at the very most critical moment of the execution proceeding, the state opted for secrecy. Once there was unavoidable evidence - visual and audible - that the lethal injection was cruel and unusual, the media was locked out. The journalists were left staring at a blank blind, able to hear - but not verify - sounds of struggle and suffering coming from inside the death chamber.

They never saw anything else.

We now know that Lockett died at 7:06 p.m., long after the media's access was shut down by the state. As to what happened in those fateful 25 minutes, we have only the words of state officials, and those words themselves beg some questions. The governor said the state "lawfully carried out the sentence of death," while the head of the state Department of Corrections - who runs executions in the state - said the execution was formally called off 10 minutes before Lockett was "pronounced...deceased." Once the state is no longer "executing" someone, their duty shifts to one of providing medical care, but there are certainly no reports that they attempted to resuscitate Lockett. Assuming they didn't, the process was, and remained, an attempt to kill him. A process the press had every right to witness.

Because the press and public were literally and figuratively shut out of witnessing the process, we may never get a reliable answer. But here's where there's no question: For over 20 minutes, Clayton Lockett lay there dying in the dark. The assembled reporters were deprived of the right to observe a critical government proceeding, and by extension the public was denied the right to receive a full account of how Oklahoma administers capital punishment, warts and all.

Both death penalty supporters and opponents should be able to agree that the most extreme use of state power should absolutely not occur in the shadows. As the Supreme Court has said, "The protection given speech and press was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people."

As citizens, we can't complete that duty if the government only offers us selective information, editing out all the ugly parts. That why we brought a lawsuit today asking the court to stop the state of Oklahoma from using the execution shade like a Photoshop tool.

It isn't transparency when the government shines a light only on the things it wants us to see.

Source: ACLU, August 25, 2014

ACLU Sues Over Closed Blinds in Botched Clayton Lockett Execution

The ACLU and 2 news organizations filed a federal lawsuit Monday to force Oklahoma prison officials to let witnesses watch executions from beginning to end. The litigation is a response to the botched April 29 lethal injection of Clayton Lockett, in which the execution team closed the blinds when the inmate began appeared to regain consciousness and struggle 20 minutes after the drugs were administered. The suit asks the court to order that all witnesses, including the media, be able to view the proceedings from the moment the prisoner enters the execution chamber until he or she is taken out.

"The state of Oklahoma violated the First Amendment, which guarantees the right of the press to witness executions so the public can be informed about the government's actions and hold it accountable," Lee Rowland, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. "The death penalty represents the most powerful exercise of government authority. The need for public oversight is as critical at the execution stage as it is during trial."

Lockett, a rapist and murderer, died of an apparent heart attack after the execution was halted. Oklahoma has put lethal injections on hold while it investigates the bungled procedure, which prompted the White House to order a federal review of state execution protocols.

Source: NBC news, August 25, 2014

Gaza crisis: Hamas executes 4 suspected Israeli spies

Public execution of 'collaborators' in
Gaza. (File photo)
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, continued with its executions of "collaborators", killing 4 more Palestinians suspected of spying for Israel.

Masked Hamas militants fatally shot the Palestinians in the courtyard of a mosque in the Jabaliya refugee camp on charges of spying for the enemy yesterday. Hamas-affiliated Al-Majd website quoted security sources as saying that the 4 were executed in a "revolutionary" way after "legal measures were completed".

The website has warned that future collaborators would be dealt with in the field to create deterrence. The Islamist faction declined to release the names or pictures of the executed for the sake of social stability, fearing backlash against their families. The executions raise the total number of Palestinian "suspects" paraded to their deaths to 25; 18 of them were executed on Friday and 3 on Thursday.

Hamas has warned that Israel will "pay the price" for killing 3 top leaders of its military wing - the Qassam Brigades. Earlier, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank, denounced the executions of alleged collaborators, calling them "extrajudicial".

The PA President's office condemned Hamas for failing to abide by existing legal procedures for dealing with the cases. Although collaboration with Israel is punishable by death in the Palestinian legal code, President Mahmoud Abbas has maintained a moratorium on the death penalty since 2005.

Amnesty International called on Hamas to halt the campaign of summary executions of suspected collaborators. The Palestinian death toll in Gaza has now reached 2,102, including about 500 children, with more than 10,550 injured during the 47-day conflict. In Israel, 68 people have died.

UN agencies have said that 70 % of those killed in Gaza are civilians, including women and children.

Source: Firstpost.com, August 25, 2014

Iran: Man hanged in public in the city of Borazjan

Public hanging in Borazjan, Iran
August 24, 2014
A man was hanged in public in the southern city of Borazjan (Bushehr province) on Sunday, 24 August 2014, for reportedly killing two women, kidnapping and theft. 

The city's Islamic Revolution Court had issued the death sentence and Branch 11 of the Supreme Court upheld it. 

The death sentence was implemented, as is customary, after head of the Judiciary authorised it.