"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nebraska: Death penalty supporters turn over 166,000 signatures

Gathering signatures against the death penalty repeal in Nebraska
Gathering signatures against the death penalty repeal in Nebraska
It appears voters in Nebraska will have the final say on the future of the death penalty.

Supporters of the death penalty in Nebraska said they turned over 166,692 petition signatures Wednesday, which if verified, would suspend the repeal of capital punishment in the state until the issue goes before voters in November 2016.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty needed about 57,000 verified signatures -- 5 percent of the state's registered voters -- to put the issue to a vote and about 114,000 -- 10 percent of registered voters -- to stop the repeal from going into effect until after the 2016 vote takes place.

Standing in front of boxes and boxes of signed petitions at a Wednesday news conference, state Sen. Mike Groene said Nebraskans -- the second house -- will now have their say.

State Treasurer Don Stenberg, state Sen. Beau McCoy, and Vivian Tuttle, mother of Evonne Tuttle, who was killed in 2002 during a bank robbery in Norfolk, were at the news conference. Stenberg and McCoy co-chaired the petition drive. Groene, of North Platte, and Tuttle said they gathered more than 1,700 and 1,900 signatures, respectively.

Groene said people "flocked" to sign petitions.

The group began collecting signatures June 6, and paid circulators and volunteers spent every day since circulating petitions in all counties across the state. McCoy said over half of the 595 petition circulators were volunteers.

Organizers of the petition drive said they expected to have no problem meeting the additional threshold of signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in at least 38 counties. Petitions, they said, include signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in 70 of the state's 93 counties.

In May, Nebraska made international headlines when the Legislature voted 30-19 to override Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of LB268, introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, which repealed the death penalty. The count included votes to repeal cast by senators who identify as conservative. One of the senators who worked hard to gather repeal votes in the Legislature was Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash, who identifies himself as a conservative Republican, and who is also Catholic.

Ricketts and his father, Joe Ricketts, have been reported as the largest individual financial contributors to the campaign, which had raised $652,000 by the end of July, as reported to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. At the last filing with the commission, the governor and his father had contributed at least $300,000.

The Judicial Crisis Network, a group committed to the U.S. Constitution and to limited government, contributed $200,000 on July 27.

Nebraskans for Public Safety, which favors repeal of the death penalty, had raised $433,500 as of the end of July. About $400,000 of that came from the Proteus Action League of Amherst, Massachusetts, a civil rights and social action advocacy group.

Another group, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, is closely monitoring the initial results of the death penalty referendum signature-gathering campaign and will await an official decision from the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office, the group said in a news release.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star, Joanne Young, August 26, 2015

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Aurora, Colo., movie theater gunman sentenced to 12 lifetimes in prison and another 3,318 years

James Holmes ordered to serve life in prison without parole plus 3,318 years
James Holmes sentenced to life in prison
without parole plus 3,318 years
The gunman who shot and killed 12 people inside a packed Aurora, Colo., movie theater in 2012 was formally sentenced Wednesday morning to life in prison without parole.

In July, a jury found James Holmes guilty on each of the 165 charges he faced in the case, unanimously rejecting an argument made by his attorneys that he was not guilty by reason of insanity. 

But last month, the same jury said he should be sentenced to life imprisonment rather than death by lethal injection, a surprising decision considering that jurors had declined earlier opportunities to spare him a death sentence.

District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. announced the sentence at a hearing Wednesday, ending a grueling, emotional trial that had stretched out for much of this year. 

As Samour had told the jurors before they deliberated on Holmes’s punishment, he was required to sentence the gunman to life in prison without parole if the jurors could not reach a unanimous decision.

But during Wednesday’s hearing, Samour made clear that he still wanted to give Holmes the most severe punishment allowed to him under the law to make it clear that Holmes will “never set foot in free society again.”

Source: The Washington Post, Mark Berman, August 26, 2015

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Iran executes political prisoner Behrouz Alkhani in spite of international pleas

Iran Execution (File photo)
Behrouz Alkhani, a 30 year old political prisoner in Iran, was executed on Tuesday despite international calls for a stay in execution and retrial, following an allegedly unfair trail. The execution came even as Alkhani awaited a Supreme Court appeal.

Alkhani, who is of Kurdish descent, was first arrested in January of 2010 in Northwestern Iran and held for more than a year without access to either his family or a lawyer. He was convicted by a Revolutionary Court of charges for collaborating with the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan and “enmity against God.” Allegedly, Alkhani participated in the assassination of a local Iranian Prosecutor.

NCRI has also reported that more than 80 protesters gathered outside of central prison of Orumieh, in western Iran, where the execution was scheduled to take place. NCRI claims that the protesters, who were demanding a halt to the execution, were attacked by prison guards and anti-riot police. Many of those gathered were family members of Alkhani and included women and children.

Aklhani's immediate family members were granted a last visit and informed of the impending execution.

Amnesty International also called for a halt to the execution, noting that Alkhani was still awaiting the outcome of his Supreme Court appeal. The organization also argued that Alkhani was given a “grossly unfair” trial, and that he was tortured and poorly treated while in custody.

Click here to read the full article

Source: Digital Journal, Brian Booker, August 26, 2015

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Oklahoma: Prejean, Sarandon, Knight and exoneree Nate Fields to appear on Dr. Phil on behalf of Richard Glossip

Richard Glossip
Richard Glossip
Anti death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean, award winning actress Susan Sarandon, legal team member Don Knight and Illinois exoneree Nathan "Nate" Fields will appear on The Dr. Phil Show to advocate for the life of Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip.

Recently receiving a whirlwind of press from Sr. Helen's work and Ms. Sarandon, the Glossip supporters will attempt to lay out the details of his case that they believe will show that Glossip is an innocent man, although he is scheduled to be executed in McAlester on September 16

According to Glossip's close friend Kim Van Atta, the airdate is September 8th, but he says "I understand the show was so powerful that Dr. Phil would like to air it sooner if he can, and wants to contact his Governor."

Nathson "Nate" Fields, also a guest, will tell how he was acquitted on April 8, 2009, of double homicide for which he spent almost 20 years in prison, including more than 11 years on death row.

To date, there have been 155 exonerations in 26 different States. Oklahoma has had 10.

Knight said, "Dr Phil gave the telephone number to the Governor's office to his TV audience and told them to call. He's really against the injustice of executing an innocent man."

In Oklahoma City, The Dr. Phil Show can be seen on KWTV, News9 at 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more information about Nathson Fields, visit the Witness for Innocence website. For more information about Richard Glossip, go to www.sisterhelen.org/richard.

Source: The City Sentinel, August 25, 2015

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Islamic State has killed at least 30 people for "being gay", UN told

Gay man thrown off building top by ISIS in Iraq in June 2015
Gay man thrown off building top by ISIS in Iraq in June 2015
US ambassador tells security council meeting it is "about time" the issue of violence and discrimination towards LGBT people is highlighted

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for killing at least 30 people for sodomy, the head of an international gay rights organisation has told the 1st UN security council meeting in New York to focus on violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"It's about time, 70 years after the creation of the UN, that the fate of LGBT persons who fear for their lives around the world is taking centre stage," said the US ambassador, Samantha Power, who organised the meeting with Chile's UN envoy. "This represents a small but historic step."

Diplomats said 2 of the 15 council members, Chad and Angola, had not attended the informal closed meeting.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told the council that courts established by Isis in Iraq and Syria claimed to have punished sodomy with stoning, firing squads and beheadings and by pushing men from tall buildings.

Fear of the extremist group, which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq, was fuelling violence by others against LGBT individuals, she said.

Subhi Nahas, a gay refugee from the Syrian city of Idlib, told the council that President Bashar al-Assad's government "launched a campaign accusing all dissidents of being homosexuals" when the country's uprising started in 2011. Soon afterwards gay hangouts were raided and many people were arrested and tortured. "Some were never heard from again," he said.

When the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front took Idlib in 2012, he said, its militants announced "they would cleanse the town of those involved in sodomy". Arrests and killings of accused homosexual people followed. In 2014 when Isis took the city, the violence worsened, he said.

"At the executions hundreds of townspeople, including children, cheered jubilantly as at a wedding," Nahas said. "If a victim did not die after being hurled off a building, the townspeople stoned him to death. This was to be my fate, too."

He was able to escape to Lebanon, then to Turkey, where he was threatened by a former schoolfriend from Idlib who had joined Isis. Finally he reached the US.

Stern stressed that persecution of LGBT people in Iraq and Syria began long before the emergence of Isis, and called for UN action to relocate LGBT persons most in need and to bring the gay community into broader human rights and humanitarian initiatives.

Source: The Guardian, August 25, 2015

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Four executions carried out in Saudi Arabia in one day

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Four people have been executed in Saudi Arabia, just one day after an international report condemned the country's frequent use of the death penalty.

This brings the number of judicial killings so far this year to 130, compared to a total of 83 in 2014 - when Saudi Arabia executed more people than any country in the world, except China and Iran.

Riyadh diplomats claims the rise in executions is due to the appointment of more judges, which has then increased the number of cases heard in court.

They deny that increase in executions in 2015 is related to the the ascension of King Salman, who began his reign in January this year.

All four executions took place in different Saudi cities on Wednesday. Three were of Saudi nationals convicted of murder - in Asir Province, the city of Taif and al-Baha Province respectively .

A Syrian man was executed in the northern province of al-Jawf for drug smuggling.

This comes the day after Amnesty International published a highly critical 43-page report on judicial killings in Saudi Arabia.

The conservative kingdom has executed at least 178 people over the past 12 months, on average one person every two days, according to Amnesty.

Nearly half of the 2,208 people executed in the past 30 years have been foreign nationals, with many believed to have lacked sufficient Arabic skills to understand court proceedings.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of sharia - Islamic law - and applies the death penalty to a number of crimes including murder, rape and drug smuggling.

Though not as common, Saudi Courts allow for people to be executed for adultery, apostasy, homosexuality and witchcraft.

People can also be executed for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age.

'Saudi Arabia's faulty justice system facilitates judicial executions on a mass scale,' Said Boumedouha, acting director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program, said in a statement

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. In certain cases executions are carried out in public and the dead bodies and severed heads are put on display afterwards.

Often, families of prisoners on death row are not notified of their execution and only learn of their loved one’s fate after they have been put to death, sometimes through media reports.

The conservative kingdom, whose judiciary is composed of clerics, denies its trials are unfair.

Source: Mail Online, August 26, 2015

Rampant executions fuelled by justice system 'riddled with holes'
  • Death sentences imposed after unfair trials lacking basic safeguards
  • At least 102 executed in first six months of 2015 compared to 90 in all of 2014
  • Average of 1 person executed every two days, most by beheading
  • Almost 1/2 of executions in recent years are for non-lethal crimes
  • At least 2,208 people executed between January 1985 and June 2015
  • Nearly 1/2 of those executed since 1985 were foreign nationals
  • Juvenile offenders, people with mental disabilities among those executed

Hundreds of people have been condemned to death after being convicted in unfair trials under Saudi Arabia's deeply flawed judicial system, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

'Killing in the Name of Justice': The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia exposes the shockingly arbitrary use of the death penalty in the Kingdom, where the death sentence is often imposed after trials that blatantly flout international standards.

"Sentencing hundreds of people to death after deeply flawed legal proceedings is utterly shameful. The use of the death penalty is horrendous in all circumstances, and is particularly deplorable when it is arbitrarily applied after blatantly unfair trials," said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

"Saudi Arabia's faulty justice system facilitates judicial executions on a mass scale. In many cases defendants are denied access to a lawyer and in some cases they are convicted on the basis of 'confessions' obtained under torture or other ill-treatment in flagrant miscarriages of justice."

Use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia

Between August 2014 and June 2015 at least 175 people were put to death - an average execution rate of 1 person every 2 days.

1/3 of all executions since 1985 were imposed for offences that do not meet the threshold of 'most serious crimes' for which the death penalty may be applied under international law. A large proportion of death sentences in Saudi Arabia - 28% since 1991- are imposed for drug-related offences.

Nearly 1/2 - 48.5% - of people executed in Saudi Arabia since 1985 were foreign nationals. Many of them were denied adequate translation assistance during the trial and were made to sign documents - including confessions - that they did not understand.

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. In certain cases executions are carried out in public and the dead bodies and severed heads are put on display afterwards.

Often, families of prisoners on death row are not notified of their execution and only learn of their loved one's fate after they have been put to death, sometimes through media reports.

Flawed justice system

Saudi Arabia's Shari'a law-based justice system lacks a criminal code, leaving definitions of crimes and punishments vague and widely open to interpretation. The system also gives judges power to use their discretion in sentencing, leading to vast discrepancies and in some cases arbitrary rulings. For certain crimes punishable under tai'zir (discretionary punishments) suspicion alone is enough for a judge to invoke the death penalty based on the severity of the crime or character of the offender.

The justice system also lacks the most basic precautions to ensure the right to a fair trial. Often death sentences are imposed after unfair and summary proceedings which are sometimes held in secret. Defendants are regularly denied access to a lawyer, or convicted on the basis of "confessions" obtained under torture or other ill-treatment. They are also denied the right to a proper, thorough appeal.

Saudi Arabia has vehemently rejected criticism of its use of the death penalty arguing that death sentences are carried out in line with Islamic Shari'a law and only for the "most serious crimes" and with the strictest fair trial standards and safeguards in place.

"Claims that the death sentence in Saudi Arabia is carried out in the name of justice and in line with international law could not be further from the truth. Instead of defending the country's appalling record, the Saudi Arabian authorities should urgently establish an official moratorium on executions and implement international fair trial standards in all criminal cases," said Said Boumedouha.

The case of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a cleric from eastern Saudi Arabia and a government critic who was sentenced to death in October 2014, clearly illustrates these shortcomings. He was convicted of vague offences after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial and was denied the chance to prepare an adequate defence. Some of the offences are not recognizably criminal offences under international human rights law.

"The fundamentally flawed nature of Saudi Arabia's legal system leaves the door wide open for abuse. The authorities are toying with people's lives in a reckless and appalling manner," said Said Boumedouha.

"If the authorities wish to show their commitment to rigorous fair trial standards they must implement reforms that will bring Saudi Arabia's criminal justice system in line with international law and standards."

Pending full abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International is calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities to restrict the scope of its use to crimes involving "intentional killing" in line with international law and standards, and to end the practise of imposing death sentences on juvenile offenders and those suffering from mental disabilities.

Source: Amnesty International, August 25, 2015

Saudi Arabia 'carrying out one execution every 2 days'

More than 100 people were executed in the first 6 months of this year compared to 90 in the previous year, says a new Amnesty report

Saudi Arabia is carrying out executions at a rate of one person every two days, according to a new report.

At least 102 people were executed in the first six months of this year compared to 90 in in the whole of 2014, said Amnesty International on Tuesday.

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are carried out by beheading, or in some cases by firing squad. Child offenders and mentally ill prisoners are among those who have been killed.

The group said the death penalty was being disproportionately used against foreign nationals, many of them migrant workers with no ability to understand Arabic - the language in which they are questioned while in detention and in which trial proceedings are carried out.

Under the conservative kingdom's strict Islamic sharia legal code, drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery and apostasy are all punishable by death. Rights groups have long criticised the system for its ambiguous nature and a lack of due process.

The kingdom is among the world's most prolific executioners, consistently featuring in the top 5 countries for capital punishment. The country recently advertised for 8 new executioners to cope with the upsurge in work.

Those beheaded this year include Siti Zainab, an Indonesian domestic worker convicted of murder despite concerns about her mental health. Jakarta summoned Riyadh's ambassador over her case; a rare diplomatic incident linked to Saudi Arabia's executions.

The interior ministry has previously cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishments.

Death row prisoners and their families are actively discouraged from any actions which might draw attention to their campaigns, Amnesty said. They are sometimes given assurances that if they do not challenge the authorities' decisions or violations in the case, such as arbitrary detention and unfair trial, then they might be spared the sword.

A surge in executions began towards the end of the reign of King Abdullah, who died in January. The numbers have accelerated this year under his successor, King Salman, in what Amnesty has called an unprecedented "macabre spike".

In May, a job advert on a Saudi civil service website advertised for the services of eight new executioners. No special qualifications were needed for the jobs whose main role is "executing a judgment of death" but also involve performing amputations on those convicted of lesser offences, the advert said.

The Saudi record was "utterly shameful", Amnesty said. "The use of the death penalty is horrendous in all circumstances, and is particularly deplorable when it is arbitrarily applied after blatantly unfair trials," said Said Boumedouha, acting Middle East director.

Source: The Telegraph, August 25, 2015

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Feds Weigh Whether to Seek Death Penalty for Charleston Killer

Dylann Storm
Dylann Storm
The federal government's decision about whether authorities should seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing 9 African-Americans in Charleston is still likely months away, South Carolina U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said in a recent interview with Free Times.

The federal case against alleged Charleston shooter Dylann Storm Roof got off to a surprising start last month when Roof's lawyer, David Bruck, indicated to a federal judge in Charleston that Roof wished to plead guilty to the 33 federal hate crime charges levied against him. Prosecutors allege that Roof outlined his hate-filled worldview in a racist online manifesto and that he told others he hoped to incite a "race war" with his actions.

However, Bruck told the judge that he couldn't advise his client on whether to enter that plea until he knows whether Roof could face a death sentence. A temporary "not guilty" plea was entered on Roof's behalf.

The 21-year-old also faces murder charges from state prosecutors. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett A. Wilson has not yet said whether her office plans to pursue the death penalty in the case.

Nettles says once his office decides on its recommendation, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch would weigh it before coming to a final decision. The South Carolina prosecutor, an Obama appointee who has held the post since 2010, called the process and decision "extraordinarily complex," noting that generally "enormous deference is given to victims."

In this case, many family members have garnered worldwide admiration for their forgiveness of Roof.

"I have never witnessed such a pronounced expression of hope or grace," Nettles says. "A lot of the victims have already expressed forgiveness that is unfathomable."

Along with interviews with family members of victims, Nettles, a former public defender who has worked on capital cases from the other side of the courtroom, says the federal government's protocol puts in place "layers of review to balance competing interests."

A Department of Justice spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Bruck, Roof's attorney, also could not be reached.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that seeks to provide unbiased information and analysis of the death penalty, says federal prosecutors will weigh several factors in making a decision. (Bruck, Roof's lawyer, is on the board of the center.)

The wishes of victims' families, the cost of a capital trial and whether local prosecutors can seek the death penalty themselves are big factors, he says.

Roof's potential capital charges differ from the ones against Boston terrorist Dzokhar Tsarnaev, Dunham says. State authorities in Massachusetts cannot pursue the death penalty because capital punishment has been ruled unconstitutional there.

Dunham also says that Roof's indication that he would prefer to plead guilty would save both the federal government and the shooting victims' families a prolonged trial and hefty costs.

"He's expressed willingness to plead guilty, and if the death penalty were off the table that would give the family members of the homicide victims an opportunity to give their statements without cross-examination or interruption during sentencing proceeding," Dunham says. "They could say what they had to say without being subjected to re-traumatization through a trial."

The federal government also has tools the state does not - the ability to put a permanent muzzle on Roof. As they have done with Tsarnaev, "special administrative measures" could be imposed on Roof, meaning his contact with the outside world would be severely limited, Dunham says. In essence, Roof could be barred from publicly expressing racist views.

"The federal prosecution has the ability to essentially make Dylann Roof disappear from view," Dunham says. "His ability to become a symbol for white supremacists disappears."

A trial on Roof's state murder charges has been set for July 2016. No further hearings have yet been scheduled by federal prosecutors in the case.

Source: free-times.com, August 27, 2015

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Death Penalty Delays Not Violative of Eighth Amendment, Unanimous California Supreme Court Holds

San Quentin Death Row
San Quentin Death Row
The lawyer for a death row inmate failed to demonstrate that systematic delays in the resolution of capital cases result in an arbitrary process that violates the Eighth Amendment, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday.

The court, which has rejected such arguments in the past, asked the parties for supplemental briefing on the issue after a federal district judge ruled last year that such delays rendered the state's death penalty unconstitutional.

But while Ropati Seumanu is free to make a more individually focused argument in a habeas corpus petition, Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar wrote, he is not entitled to have his sentence overturned merely because more than 14 years have elapsed since he was sentenced to die for a murder in his hometown of Heyward.

"Our conclusion would be different were the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to ask all capital inmates who have exhausted their appeals to draw straws or roll dice to determine who would be the 1st in line for execution," the jurist said. "But the record in this case does not demonstrate such arbitrariness," she continued.

"Unquestionably, some delay occurs while this court locates and appoints qualified appellate counsel, permits those appointed attorneys to prepare detailed briefs, allows the Attorney General to respond, and then carefully evaluates the arguments."

Those delays safeguard the defendants' rights, rather than violate them, she said.

Seumanu was 22 when he, his brother and 2 teenagers stole a car one night in May 1996 and confronted Nolan Pamintuan, 25, who had just returned from a pre-wedding dinner with his fiancee, according to testimony.

The robbers took an inscribed Movado watch his fiancee had given him as a wedding gift and $300 that they forced him to withdraw from a bank ATM. After expressing irritation at the fact he had no more money to give them and had reached the ATM's withdrawal limit, Seumanu killed him with a shotgun blast to the chest, according to the testimony.

His brother, Tautai Seumanu, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison, and the two teenagers were given shorter sentences for manslaughter, kidnapping and robbery.

Ropati Seumanu, who served as a deacon in the First Samoan Gospel Church, where his father was pastor, was also described by a witness as the founder of a gang called Sons of Samoa, affiliated with the Crips. Witnesses said he committed numerous assaults in the years before the murder.

In addition to rejecting Seumanu's Eighth Amendment claim, the justices concluded that he was not entitled to a reversal based on prosecutorial misconduct.

Werdegar was critical of Deputy District Attorney Angela Backers for, among other things, telling the jury that Seumanu's lawyers were putting on a "sham" defense and didn't believe their client's alibi, for asking jurors to view the case through the eyes of the victim, who begged for his life before being shot, and for telling the jury - after the defense lawyers introduced themselves and their client - that the deceased was her "client."

But none of those remarks affected the verdict, Werdegar said, because the evidence of guilt was strong and the jury was properly instructed not to be swayed by prejudice or sympathy and that the remarks of counsel were not evidence.

The case is People vs. Seumanu, 15 S.O.S. 4375.

Source: Metropolitan News Company, August 26, 2015

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Boston Bombing juror says he regrets giving Tsarnaev the death penalty

D. Tsarnaev
D. Tsarnaev
Kevan Fagan, 'Juror 83' in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, says he probably would not have voted for the death penalty had he been aware that the families of some victims wanted a life sentence.

On Monday, the same day a federal judge ruled to keep the names of all jurors in the trial sealed, Mr. Fagan sat down for an interview with WBUR-FM.

Fagan is the first juror to speak publicly using his name, and to be photographed, according to the station.

Fagan would not discuss deliberations but said he "would probably change" his vote in the penalty phase of the trial if he had been aware that the parents of 8-year-old victim Martin Richard opposed the death penalty.

The week before the jury was set to deliberate on life imprisonment or death for Mr. Tsarnaev, nearly two years to the day of the bombing, Bill and Denise Richard wrote an essay, published in The Boston Globe, that a death sentence would only lead to lengthy appeals and draw out the anguish for their family:

We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.

The jurors were ordered to avoid social media and press throughout the trial.

Source: Business Insider, August 25, 2015

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Texas Death Row Inmate Bernardo Tercero Wins Reprieve

Bernardo Tercero
Bernardo Tercero
HUNTSVILLE (August 25, 2015) The Texas Count of Criminal Appeals Tuesday stopped the scheduled execution of a Nicaraguan man convicted of killing a Houston high school teacher during a robbery more than 18 years ago.

Bernardo Tercero, 39, was scheduled to receive a lethal injection Wednesday evening in Huntsville.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a reprieve Tuesday after attorneys contended in an appeal that a prosecution witness at Tercero's trial in 2000 gave false testimony.

The appeals court has returned the case to the trial court to review the claim.

Tercero was convicted in the shooting death of Robert Berger, 38, who was in a Houston dry cleaners shop in March 1997 when Tercero came in to rob it.

Prosecutors said Tercero was in the U.S. illegally at the time of the slaying.

Source: Associated Press, August 25, 2015

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Veintidós personas de distintas nacionalidades están en el corredor de la muerte en Texas

Junto al nicaragüense Bernardo Tercero, cuya ejecución está programada para el miércoles de esta semana, hay otros 21 extranjeros en el corredor de la muerte en Texas, en su mayoría mexicanos y centroamericanos, aunque también los hay de Sudamérica, Asia y el Caribe.

Si nada lo impide, al nicaragüense lo ejecutarán el miércoles a las seis de la tarde locales en la cárcel de Huntsville, la más antigua de Texas y en la que ya han sido ajusticiados 13 extranjeros desde marzo de 1993, cuando el dominicano Carlos Santana murió a manos de sus verdugos.

Tercero fue condenado por asesinar a otro hombre en 1997 durante un atraco en una lavandería de Houston, crimen por el que ha pasado los últimos 15 años de su vida en el temido corredor de la muerte de Texas, ubicado en la cárcel de Polunsky.

Once mexicanos y tres salvadoreños, entre otros

Además de Tercero, en Texas están condenados a muerte 11 mexicanos, tres salvadoreños, dos hondureños, un argentino, un dominicano, un vietnamita, un bangladesí y una única mujer nacida en la isla caribeña de San Cristóbal y con pasaporte británico.

La mayoría está en la cárcel por un asesinato, aunque hay casos como el del mexicano Abel Ochoa que en 2002 mató a su esposa, a sus dos hijas de 7 años y de 9 meses, a su suegro y a su cuñada, o el del salvadoreño Héctor Medina, que mató a su hijo de tres años y a su hija de ocho meses en 2007.

Otros, como el mexicano Juan Carlos Álvarez está condenado por el asesinato de cuatro miembros de una banda rival en 1998 o el también mexicano Ignacio Gómez que mató en 1996 a tres personas tras una pelea.

Por su parte, el hondureño Edgardo Cubas y el salvadoreño Walter Sorto fueron condenados por el secuestro, violación y asesinato en 2002 de tres mujeres hispanas, una de ellas de 15 años, aunque hay sospechas de que pudieron estar involucrados en más casos parecidos.

Cubas estuvo a punto de ser ejecutado en 2014, pero finalmente suspendieron su cita con los verdugos.

Otros, como el salvadoreño Gilmar Guevara, que en el 2000 mató a dos personas durante un atraco, ya han agotado todos sus recursos legales y podrían recibir una fecha de ejecución en los próximos meses.

Una británica

Entre los casos más conocidos está el de la mujer británica, Linda Carty, condenada por el secuestro y asesinato de su vecina, Joana Rodríguez.

Según los fiscales, Carty estaba tan desesperada por tener un bebé y salvar su matrimonio que decidió raptar al recién nacido de Rodríguez, cuyo cadáver fue hallado un día después de su desaparición en el maletero de un vehículo.

Carty fue condenada con el testimonio de los autores materiales del crimen, pero ella siempre ha defendido que le tendieron una trampa y su caso ha atraído la atención de los medios de comunicación del Reino Unido.

No lejos de la controversia

La ejecución de ciudadanos extranjeros en los últimos años ha estado rodeada de polémica, ya que en 2004 la Corte Internacional de Justicia (CIJ) de La Haya ordenó en el llamado "Fallo Avena" revisar el caso de 51 mexicanos condenados a muerte en Estados Unidos a quienes se les violó el derecho a notificación consular.

La Convención de Viena sobre Relaciones Consulares obliga a los Estados a informar a los consulados respectivos de la detención de ciudadanos extranjeros, así como al detenido de que tiene derecho a solicitar asistencia consular.

Desde la sentencia, Estados Unidos ha seguido ejecutando a ciudadanos extranjeros, cuatro de ellos "en franca violación" del "Fallo Avena", según sostiene la Cancillería mexicana.

El director del Observatorio Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), Robert Dunham, dijo a Efe que "Estados Unidos ha violado las leyes internacionales en muchas ocasiones al ejecutar a ciudadanos extranjeros".

Por su parte, el abogado de Tercero, Mike Charlton, afirmó que "Texas nunca ha respetado los derechos consulares", por lo que no espera que la violación del derecho a esa notificación tenga ningún efecto en el caso del nicaragüense.

Según datos del DPIC, en Estados Unidos hay 139 extranjeros de 36 nacionalidades condenados a muerte, casi la mitad (61) están en California, mientras que en Texas hay 22 y en Florida 21.

Desde que el Tribunal Supremo de Estados Unidos reinstauró la pena de muerte en 1976, 31 extranjeros han sido ejecutados en todo el país.

Sin embargo, durante casi siete meses de 2015, Texas no ha impuesto la pena de muerte. En algunos casos, los jurados optaron por poner a los convictos tras las rejas de por vida.

Es parte de una tendencia, que indica que la pena de muerte podría estar siendo relegada. Los números muestran, según el exveterano fiscal de distrito Tim Cole, que la aplicación de la pena de muerte ha dejado de ser una herramienta a considerar invariablemente para los fiscales.

“Estamos demostrando como un estado que podemos vivir sin la pena de muerte”, señaló Cole.

Fuente: Univision.com y Agencias, 23/08/2015

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Nebraska Death Penalty Petition Deadline

Gathering pro-DP signatures in Nebraska, USA
Gathering pro-DP signatures in Nebraska, USA
Come November 2016, Nebraskans may be able to vote for the death penalty if the group Nebraskans for the Death Penalty gather enough signatures before the Thursday deadline. The petition is in hopes to get the issue back in the hands of the voters. Thus, the group's circulators has been soliciting signatures that will support the death penalty for about 80 days now.

The Nebraskans for the Death Penalty say this week they are working hard. They believe the vast majority of Nebraskans want the death penalty back.

Spokesman for Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, Chris Peterson says, "We've collected signatures from every corner of Nebraska and I think that speaks volumes as to the level of support to every corner of the state as we look towards the future weather or not we will keep the death penalty in our state."

However, everyone is not stopping to sign the petition. One Lincoln resident who did not sign the petition, Phil Lewiston, says, "For me it doesn't make financial sense.. it doesn't make moral sense so I choose not to sign."

Spokeswoman for Nebraskans for Public Safety, Danielle Conrad says, "No matter what happens with this referendum campaign we are really in a no lose situation. Either we will be successful and keeping this issue off the ballot so we can move on to better and other priorities for our state. Or we will have a huge jump start on a general election campaign where we know we will be competitive where we are confident our position will carry the day."

The group says they need 57 thousand registered voters' signatures to put the issue on the ballot in 2016. As of now, the signatures are being tallied in a secret location. The group will not share how many people have signed the petition.

Peterson also says, "Really the last day to sign is Tuesday. Wednesday morning we might collect a few signatures but our focus is really turning towards organizing those petitions to turn them in."

Once it's all done, it will take about 40 days for County Clerks to verify the validity of the signatures. The official numbers will come out in October from the Secretary of State's Office.

Source: NBC Nebraska, August 24, 2015

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Alabama death row inmate maintains state is wrongly ignoring his claims of innocence

The latest Alabama inmate seeking freedom from death row maintains the state is wrongly ignoring his claims of innocence while his health fails behind bars, one of his attorneys said Monday.

Legal arguments filed by Donnis Musgrove contend the state is arguing about technicalities rather than addressing legitimate concerns about the man’s 1988 conviction and death sentence.

Musgrove’s appeal is currently in federal court, and the defense is asking the judge to rule quickly because the prisoner has lung cancer and was hospitalized last week in grave condition, said Cissy Jackson, one of his lawyers.

“We would love to get him out of prison ... so he could have some peace after being wrongfully imprisoned for so many years,” said Jackson.

Out of the hospital and sent back to Donaldson prison near Birmingham, Musgrove will be treated in the prison infirmary for an indefinite period, Jackson said.

The attorney general’s office didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment on Musgrove’s legal arguments or health.

The state has argued that rules prohibit Musgrove from making new claims about being innocent and bar him from questioning evidence used in his trial, but prosecutors haven’t directly addressed his arguments about being wrongfully convicted based on bogus evidence conjured by prosecutors and police.

Musgrove, 67, was sentenced to die for the gunshot killing of Coy Eugene Barron in 1986, but his attorneys maintain the prosecution falsified every piece of evidence against him, including witness statements and a shell casing that was used to link him to the slaying.

Source: The Guardian, August 24, 2015

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Indonesian worker escapes death penalty in Malaysia

Walfrida Soik
Walfrida Soik
An Indonesian migrant working in Malaysia, Walfrida Soik from East Nusa Tenggara, has narrowly avoided the death sentence.

The Kota Bharu High Court in Malaysia ruled on Tuesday to acquit Walfrida of murder charges, sparing her from the death penalty, because she suffers from a mental illness.

The court ordered Walfrida to be treated at Permai Johor Bharu Mental Hospital until she was deemed eligible for a complete pardon from the Sultan of Kelantan.

Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia, Herman Prayitno, welcomed the verdict and lauded the involvement of different parties that assisted with Walfrida’s defense.

To speed up the legal process, Herman said that he would send a request for remission to the Sultan of Kelantan.

“This case is a reminder to us of the importance of monitoring the practice of sending illegal migrant workers [overseas],” Herman said in a press release, as quoted by tribunnew.com on Tuesday.

Walfrida faced the death penalty for murdering her employer’s relative in December 2010.

She was an undocumented migrant worker as she was still underage when she was sent to Malaysia.

Source: The Jakarta Post, August 25, 2015

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Saudi Arabia: One of the World’s Most Prolific Executioners

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia remains one of the most prolific executioners in the world. Between January 1985 (the earliest year from when information on executions is available) and June 2015, it executed at least 2,200 people, almost half of whom were foreign nationals.

Over one-third of these executions were carried out for offenses that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” for which the death penalty can be imposed under international law. Most of these crimes, such as drug-related offenses, are not mandatorily punishable by death according to the authorities’ interpretation of Sharia law.

Saudi Arabia also continues to sentence to death and execute individuals for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age, in violation of the country’s obligations under international customary law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also in violation of international law, the death penalty in Saudi Arabia continues to be used against people with mental disabilities.

The death penalty is also used disproportionately against foreign nationals, the majority of whom are migrant workers with no knowledge of Arabic—the language in which they are questioned while in detention and in which trial proceedings are carried out. They are often denied adequate interpretation assistance. Their country’s embassies and consulates are not promptly informed of their arrest, or even of their executions. In some cases, their families are neither notified in advance of the execution nor are their bodies returned to them to be buried.

The authorities recurrently fail to abide by international standards for fair trial and U.N. safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. Too often trials in death penalty cases are held in secret, and their proceedings are unfair and summary with no legal assistance or representation through the various stages of detention and trial. Defendants may be convicted solely on the basis of “confessions” obtained under torture or other ill-treatment, duress or deception.

The Saudi Arabian authorities continue to claim that they apply the death penalty only for the “most serious crimes” and only following the most rigorous and thorough judicial proceedings. They have argued that the death penalty is an integral component of Sharia law that guarantees the rights of perpetrators and victims alike, and that the death penalty and public executions serve as a deterrent to crime. The authorities’ claims on the use of the death penalty contradict its practice in reality.

Foreign nationals, particularly migrant workers from disadvantaged economic backgrounds who moved to Saudi Arabia from countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, comprise a high and disproportionate number of those executed in Saudi Arabia. Of the total 2,208 executions recorded between January 1985 and June 2015, at least 1,072, or some 48.5 percent, were of foreign nationals. During their trial, their foreign nationality and the fact that they often lack Arabic language skills place them in a particularly disadvantageous position.

Source: Newsweek, Op-Ed, Amnesty International, August 24, 2015

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Iraqi Kurdistan hangs 3, breaking death penalty moratorium

Masoud Barzani
Masoud Barzani
A Kurdish man and his 2 wives, convicted of abducting and murdering 2 schoolgirls, were hanged last week, the 1st judicial executions in the Kurdistan Region since a death penalty moratorium in 2008.

The hangings were announced by District Judge Abdulrahman Zebari, who had issued the death sentences in April 2014 at a court in Duhok city.

"The 3 convicts were hanged shortly after death sentences were signed by the Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani in accordance with protocol," Zebari said.

The 3 offenders were convicted for the abduction and murder of 2 schoolgirls in 2011 and 2012.

Apart from terrorism-related cases, no other death sentence has been carried out since 2008, because President Barzani has imposed a moratorium by refusing to sign the execution orders.

The judge said the president was asked to make an exception and sign the verdicts for the 3 offenders, due to the gravity of the crime.

They were hanged for the deaths of 2 11-year-old girls, Avan Haji and Havin Hasan, who were kidnapped in Zakho before being abused and murdered.

1 of the girls was reported missing in November 2011 and the other in March 2012.

The male offender was initially investigated by police in 2012 but was released for lack of evidence, police said.

"It was through 1 of his wives that we could charge the man again and find evidence," Captain Nashaat Sulaiman of the Zakho police force, told Rudaw.

"Initially, 1 of his wives came and complained that the man was beating her but then she revealed the bigger crimes concerning the 2 girls," Sulaiman said.

The man was a construction worker and had 6 children from the 2 marriages.

Both his wives were also charged and sentenced to death "for complicity" and "because of the gravity of the crime," the verdict read.

Kurdistan's Supreme Court did not overrule the sentences, despite lawyers' objections.

"There were growing public demands that we should respond to the cruelty with which the crimes were committed," the judge said.

The number of inmates on death row in Kurdistan has grown to a record high as authorities continue to maintain a de facto moratorium on death penalty.

In the region's 3 provinces, there are now 205 prisoners who have been sentenced to death. The number is higher than in any year since the 1990s, when the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) established its autonomous courts, virtually independent of Iraq's judiciary.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein and UN Special Representative for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov have urged Iraq to impose a moratorium on the death penalty and called on the Kurdistan region to abolish it permanently.

Source: rudaw.net, August 24, 2015

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Rare mass 'terror' trial opens in the UAE

Mass trials on terrorism charges are rare in the UAE which has largely been spared the Islamic militancy that has hit other Arab states

A rare mass trial of 41 radical Islamists accused of seeking to overthrow the government and links with "terrorists" opened on Monday in the United Arab Emirates, official media reported.

WAM news agency said the hearing at the state security court in Abu Dhabi was devoted to procedural measures, including the appointment of lawyers.

The judge then adjourned the trial to September 28.

Earlier this month, the prosecutor general accused the defendants, who include both Emiratis and foreigners, of plotting attacks aimed at trying to "seize power and establish a caliphate".

He also accused them of creating a group "with a terrorist, takfiri (Sunni Muslim extremist) ideology".

Takfiris regard Muslims who do not follow their extreme interpretation of Islam as apostates who can be killed.

The Islamic State group, which has set up a "caliphate" on territory it has captured in Syria and Iraq, follows the takfiri ideology, as does Al-Qaeda.

It was not immediately clear if the 41 suspects were accused of links to either group.

However, the prosecutor has said they were in touch with "foreign terrorist organisations... to help them achieve their goal".

The defendants could face the death penalty if found guilty.

They are also accused of setting up cells to train members in handling weapons and explosives in preparation for attacks in the UAE.

Authorities reported their arrest on August 2 and prosecutors immediately levelled the accusations against them and said they would face trial.

Such mass trials on terrorism charges are rare in the UAE which has largely been spared the Islamic militancy that has hit other Arab states.

The UAE is part of a US-led coalition that has been carrying out air strikes against IS in Syria since September last year.

The wealthy Gulf state has upped security measures in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

In July, it adopted tougher anti-terror legislation and introduced the death penalty for crimes linked to religious hatred and "takfiri groups".

These measures were taken a week after an Emirati woman convicted of the jihadist-inspired murder of a US schoolteacher was put to death by firing squad in a rare execution approved by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Source: Agence France-Presse, August 24, 2015

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Monday, August 24, 2015

At Least 3 Prisoners Executed in Northern Iran

Public hanging in Iran (file photo)
Public hanging in Iran (file photo)
2 prisoners charged with murder were hanged to death in Rasht's Lakan Prison, one prisoner was hanged in Ardebil Central Prison on a drug related charge.

2 prisoners charged with murder (identified as M.M., 37 years old, and A.M., 33 years old) were hanged to death in Rasht's Lakan Prison on the morning of Saturday August 23, reports the Justice Department in the province of Gilan. 

An informed source, who has requested to be anonymous, says there were a total of 3 prisoners who were hanged to death in Lakan Prison on Saturday. "One of the prisoners' name is Asghar Mohammadi," says the source.

In Ardabil Central Prison one prisoner (identified as Hamed Madeh Moghadar) was hanged to death on Saturday for possessing more than 580 grams of crystal meth, according to the Press Department of Ardebil's Judiciary. 

The prisoner was reportedly issued the death penalty by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in the province of Ardabil.

Source: Iran Human Rights, August 24, 2015

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China to Boost Penalties for Sex With Girls Under 14

Chinese state media say China is planning harsher penalties for men who have sex with girls under 14, following public outrage over high-profile offenders including teachers.

Under the new law, all such cases would be considered rape because another criminal charge that served as a loophole for some offenders would be eliminated.

The state-run China News Service said Monday the crime of "prostitution with underage girls" would be removed from China's penal code under the revision being considered by lawmakers. 

If the bill is approved, any sex with girls under 14 would be considered rape and subject to harsher penalties, including death.

The current penalty for prostitution with underage girls is 5 to 15 years in jail.

Members of the public and legal scholars have long called for the change.

Source: Associated Press, August 25, 2015

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Indonesia: Dozens of RI nationals on death row for drugs

The National Narcotics Agency (BNN) has said that there are currently 129 Indonesian nationals facing the death penalty for their role in drug smuggling.

"The majority of them are migrant workers who were tricked into becoming couriers by international drug syndicates and most of them are women," BNN chief Anang Iskandar said as quoted by Antara news agency on Sunday.

The BNN has appealed to Indonesian citizens, especially migrant workers in Hong Kong and Macau, to remain alert over the danger of drug syndicates in the countries in which they work.

"They should not be easily duped. They should be careful when someone wants to entrust something to them. Also be very careful with strangers," he said.

Anang earlier warned women in the country to be careful when dating foreigners, suggesting they could be tricked into becoming drug mules. He said that many Indonesian women were languishing in prisons abroad because they were "easily tricked into drug-trafficking". On Sunday, Anang also called on Indonesian nationals who use drugs abroad to immediately stop and seek help from an Indonesian representative office. The office, he said, could recommend them to a rehab center.

"We are cooperating with a number of countries on a bilateral and multilateral basis to prevent and eradicate drug abuse, and to unravel international drug networks that use Indonesian citizens as mules or consider Indonesia a part of their smuggling route," he said.

Anang also said that the demand for drugs in Indonesia remained very high, making the country one of the main destinations for drug smuggling.

The BNN estimates that there are more than 4.2 million active drug users in the country.

"If one of them consumes 0.2 grams a day, it means 80 kilograms of drugs is needed every day to satiate demand, or 2.4 tons per month and 29 tons per year," he said.

Indonesian consul general in Hong Kong, Chalief Akbar Tjandraningrat, said there were 28 Indonesian citizens currently embroiled in drug cases in Hong Kong.

"12 of them are still in detention, while 16 others have been sentenced. In Macau the number is 10, and most of them are couriers and most are women," he said.

Under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration, the government has implemented tougher measures on drug offenders.

Declaring a "drug emergency", President Jokowi has called for the death penalty for drug dealers and has rejected clemency pleas from convicted traffickers. Despite protests from human rights campaigners and the international community, his administration executed 14 convicts - including foreigners of multiple nationalities - in January and May of this year.

Source: The Jakarta Post, August 24, 2015

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