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

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Amnesty Raps 'Regressive' Indonesia on World Against Death Penalty Day

Jakarta. An alarming number of states across the globe, including Indonesia, continue to violate international law by executing people convicted on drug-related charges, Amnesty International said on the occasion of World Day Against the Death Penalty, which falls on Oct. 10.

"At least 11 countries across the globe – including China, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia – have handed down death sentences or executed people for drug-related crimes over the past two years, while dozens of states maintain the death penalty for drug-related offenses," the global human rights watchdog said in a press release issued on Friday.

The administration of President Joko Widodo has declared a war on drugs and so far this year has executed 12 men and two women convicted of narcotics-related crimes. Two of those killed were Indonesian citizens, the others hailed from a variety of countries, including Nigeria, Brazil and Australia.

“It’s disheartening that so many countries are still clinging to the flawed idea that killing people will somehow end addiction or reduce crime," said Chiara Sangiorgio, a death penalty expert working with Amnesty. "The death penalty does nothing to tackle crime or enable people who need help to access the treatment for drug addiction."

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Indonesia is a party, allows for the death penalty to be used only for the "most serious crimes." This is generally understood to only mean murder, but a number of countries, including Indonesia, maintain that drug offenses also fall into this category.

"These states are ignoring evidence that a response focused on human rights and public health, including prevention of substance abuse and access to treatment, has been effective to end drug-related deaths and prevent the transmission of infectious diseases," Amnesty says in its press release. "Even in relation to violent crime, there is not a shred of evidence that the threat of execution is more of a deterrent than any other form of punishment."

Amnesty says the Indonesian government's decision to execute drug convicts is "a regressive step for a country that had looked to be moving to end executions just a few years ago, and which has successfully made efforts to seek commutations of death sentences for Indonesian citizens on death row in other countries."

The organization added: "The use of the death penalty in Indonesia is riddled with flaws, as suspects are routinely tortured into 'confessions' or subjected to unfair trials."

Besides China and Iran, Amnesty also specifically mentioned Malaysia, where drug trafficking carries a mandatory death sentence. "Malaysia does not publish information on executions, but Amnesty International’s monitoring suggests that half of the death sentences imposed in recent years are for drug trafficking convictions," the press release says.

Drug-related executions were also carried out in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and several other countries beyond the Southeast Asia region in recent years.

The exact number of people put to death in China is unclear, as its capital punishment figures are treated as state secrets, but the country is believed to be executing more people than the rest of the world put together, and according to Amnesty "people convicted on drug-related offenses make up a significant proportion of those executed."

The rights watchdog says Iran is the world's second-most prolific executioner, having put to death "thousands of people to death for drug-related crimes over the past decades," while executions for drug-related offenses have also "skyrocketed in Saudi Arabia over the past three years."

Amnesty says it opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception because the death penalty violates the right to life, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," the organization says.

Source: The Jakarta Globe, October 10, 2015

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Saudi Arabia rejects ‘interference in domestic affairs' over al-Nimr death sentence

Ali al-Nimr
Ali al-Nimr
Diplomat says calls are impingement on judicial independence, impartiality

Manama: Saudi Arabia has dismissed remarks on its judicial system, saying that they amounted to interference in its domestic affairs and impingement on its sovereignty.

Reacting to pressure to release Ali Al Nimr, a Saudi sentenced to death for “acts linked to terror”, the Saudi embassy in London said in a statement issued on Wednesday that “the judiciary is an independent body and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia rejects any form of interference in its internal affairs and any impingement on its sovereignty or the independence and impartiality of its judiciary”.

Ali Nimr was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to death in 2014. Last month, the sentence was upheld by the higher court, and the decision prompted calls to release him.

However, Saudi Arabia rejected the calls as “interference in its domestic affairs”.

In Italy where Saudi Arabia’s participation as a guest of honour at the 2016 Turin International Book Fair was dropped on Tuesday, Saudi Ambassador Rayed Krimly called on Italians not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the kingdom and not to give them lessons in human rights.

“My friends, the era of European imperialism has ended long ago,” the ambassador wrote in a message posted in Italian on the embassy website. “The exchanges of mutual benefits are not based on the principle that a party dictates ...[to] another how [to] carry out its activities. Do not confuse dialogue, which necessarily implies the existence of differences, with monologue.

“Our laws, our political and judicial institutions, and our policies are being modernised under a pace and manner in keeping with the needs and demands of our people. They are not designed to meet the latest whims of others. You may not like some aspects of our values, culture or laws [see related content below], but these belong to us and not to you. Moreover, we may not like some aspects of the Italian culture, politics or legal system, but we do not give you lessons on how to conduct your own business,” he wrote.

Saudi Arabia is a proudly independent country, and has never been ruled by colonial powers, he added.

“It is not our custom to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations, and certainly we do not tolerate that others try to interfere in ours,” the ambassador wrote.

In a report published by Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Krimly called “those who show particular interest in human rights to deepen their knowledge of particular cases before speaking out about them”.

Source: Gulf News, October 8, 2015
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Oklahoma Governor: Future Of Death Penalty Uncertain After Mix-Ups

There have been so many problems in carrying out executions in Oklahoma that it’s hard to say whether the death penalty can continue in this state, Gov. Mary Fallin said Thursday.

“Can’t answer that question yet,” she said, “but it certainly is not helpful to us having the death penalty in Oklahoma.”

An improperly set intravenous line slowed the death of one man, the wrong drug was given to another and a third execution was called off at the last minute because of the same drug mistake.

“Sure I’m frustrated, absolutely,” Fallin said.

The latest error was revealed Wednesday with documents showing Oklahoma used the wrong drug to execute a man in January.

“We cannot trust Oklahoma to get it right or to tell the truth,” said Dale Baich, an attorney for convicted murderer Richard Glossip.

Minutes Away

Glossip was in his boxer shorts and within minutes of going to the nearby death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Sept. 30 when Gov. Mary Fallin granted him a stay of execution.

She did so because one of the three drugs prepared for him was potassium acetate, when the proper drug in the state protocol is potassium chloride.

Both drugs will stop the heart.

Potassium acetate was used in the Jan. 15 execution of baby killer Charles Frederick Warner, according to records obtained by The Oklahoman.

“The state’s disclosure that it used potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride during the execution of Charles Warner yet again raises serious questions about the ability of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to carry out executions,” Baich said.

“The execution logs for Charles Warner say that he was administered potassium chloride, but now the state says potassium acetate was used.”

Richard Glossip
Richard Glossip
The logs indicate Warner was administered drugs from syringes labeled as potassium chloride at 7:20 p.m. and 7:22 p.m.

However, an autopsy report indicated these syringes were actually drawn from vials of potassium acetate.

Gov. Mary Fallin said an investigation will get to the bottom of the problems.

“Moving forward, the attorney general, the Department of Corrections and my office will work cooperatively to address these issues,” she said. “Until we have complete confidence in the system, we will delay any further executions.”

The governor’s office has retained former U.S. Attorney Robert McCampbell to act as an independent legal counsel to examine execution problems. He is being paid with public funds.

Warner was the last murderer to be executed at the penitentiary in McAlester.

His execution was the first since the problematic, 43-minute execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014. A state investigation concluded an improperly placed intravenous line slowed Lockett’s death.

Lockett, who was convicted of murder, rape and kidnapping, was writhing and making noises when he was supposed to be unconscious.

Reactions To Mix-Ups

Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, has been a critic of the Department of Corrections for some of its prison release policies and finds fault with the department now.

“The problem is with the DOC, not with the death penalty,” he said. “There is a problem at DOC, something within the agency that needs to be addressed.”

When executions are scheduled and then called off, it’s hard on victims’ families, he said.

“If you’re talking about the defendant you have to talk about the victim,” Biggs said. “Very few look at it from the victim’s point of view, what all they have been through, what they have suffered.”

The Rev. Adam Leathers, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said the problem is the death penalty itself.

“I don’t think there could be any other institution in this state as flawed, as corrupt, as expensive, as meaningless, as the death penalty and yet it still exists,” he said.

If lethal injection is ever ruled unconstitutional or if the drugs became unavailable, a bill approved by the Oklahoma Legislature would allow executions to be carried out by giving the condemned person nitrogen.

This so-called nitrogen hypoxia is not done in any other state.

Source: Times Record, Rick Green, October 9, 2015

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Belgian expat's murder charge sparks discussion about the death penalty in Belgium

Belgian national Philippe Graffart (center) arrives at the state court in Singapore.
Belgian national Philippe Graffart (center) arrives at the state court in Singapore.
The arrest of Belgian expatriate Philippe Graffart for the alleged murder of his 5-year-old son has attracted media attention in Belgium, with many Belgian news reports focusing on how he faces the death penalty.

Newspapers like the La Dernière Heure (The Latest Hour), a French-language daily published in Brussels, kicked off their reports by stating that Graffart faces the death penalty by hanging if he is convicted. Others, such as La Meuse, a French-language regional paper published in Liege, Belgium, ran the death penalty threat as a headline.

Graffart, 41, was charged in court on Wednesday with the murder of his son, Keryan Gabriel Cedric Graffart. The boy was understood to have been strangled as hand-shaped bruises were found over his neck.

The La Dernière Heure said on Wednesday that Graffart's mother was trying to help him. The newspaper also quoted Graffart's uncle, who was unnamed, as saying that the family was "in shock" over the incident.

Belgian minister of foreign affairs Didier Reynders said that consular assistance has been offered to Graffart's family in Singapore, according to the La Dernière Heure. Mr Reynders also told the Brussels newspaper that Belgium is against the death penalty.

"Belgium is campaigning in the front line and has always been against the death penalty. We operate all over the world to demand its abolition. Belgium's position is very clear on the matter. If any of our people had to be condemned to such penalty, it is clear that we will take steps to publicise our position again," the La Dernière Heure quoted Mr Reynders as saying.

The Straits Times was not able to verify the comments, as the Belgian Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Corporation, which is responsible for Belgium's external relations, had not responded to messages by press time. The Belgian Embassy in Singapore has declined to comment on the case.

Meanwhile, many Belgians have commented on the case online.

"This jerk, he deserves death, rest in peace little angel." said Marie-therese Rodts Marino said in a comment on Belgian newspaper Sud Presse's Facebook page.

On La Meuse's website, someone named Martine Monseur said:"May this little innocent victim rest in peace. Belgium should institute the death penalty for people who harm children!"

But other netizens were critical of the death penalty.

Said Marie-Francoise Cambron: "I am against the death penalty because it does not change what he did and will not bring back the little boy."

Source: Straits Times, October 9, 2015

Belgian financial executive charged with strangling 5-year-old son in Singapore

The boy was reportedly found in his bedroom with hand-shaped bruises around his neck and his parents, divorced, are believed to be fighting over his custody

A Belgian financial executive was charged on Wednesday with murdering his five-year-old son in Singapore, an offence punishable by hanging.

Philippe Graffart, 41, was accused of killing his son Keryan at an upmarket condominium near Singapore’s embassy row between Monday night and Tuesday morning.

He has been remanded for psychiatric observation at the medical complex in Changi Prison.

Local media reported the boy was found strangled, with hand-shaped bruises around his neck, and Graffart was believed to have been fighting for custody of his son with his former wife.

He was arrested before dawn on Tuesday after showing up with self-inflicted wounds outside a police station, the Straits Times said. The charge sheet contained no further details.

Graffart was due to fly to Hong Kong on Wednesday for work and arrangements had been made for Keryan's mother to pick him up from school, the Straits Times quoted Graffart's domestic helper Ni Em Cin as saying.

The Belgian’s account on business networking service LinkedIn described him as an executive director and head of fund distribution in the Asia-Pacific for Nordea Investment Management, based in Oslo.

A Facebook account in his name showed a collection of happy pictures with Keryan.

“Happy Birthday to you Keryan! 5 years i am so proud of you!,” said a post dated September 25.

Source: South China Morning Post, October 7, 2015

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3 more prisoners hanged in Iran

"An unprecedented killing spree"
3 prisoners were hanged in a notorious jail north-west of the Iranian capital on Wednesday.

The 3 men were hanged at dawn in Gohardasht (Rajai-Shahr) Prison in the city of Karaj.

They had been transferred to solitary confinement earlier in the week in preparation for their execution.

The mullahs' regime on Tuesday hanged 4 other men in northern and southern Iran.

The regime's judiciary in Qazvin Province, north-west of Tehran, said a prisoner only identified by his 1st name Aliyar was hanged on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday the fundamentalist regime hanged 3 prisoners in Adel-Abad Prison in Shiraz, southern Iran.

They were identified as Ali Baz Khosravi, Mostafa Khosravi and Ali Baz Nourian.

On Sunday Mr. Aziz Maktabi was hanged in the same prison.

The mullahs' regime in Iran continues to execute more of its citizens per capita than any other U.N. member state. Some 2000 people have been executed during Hassan Rouhani's presidency in the past 2 years.

A statement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on August 5 said: "Iran has reportedly executed more than 600 individuals so far this year. Last year, at least 753 people were executed in the country."

Amnesty International said on September 7 that "the Iranian authorities must end their unprecedented killing spree - more than 700 people have been executed so far this year."

Source: NCR-Iran, October 9, 2015

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Death Penalty News: Striving for a Death Penalty-Free World

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Morocco: Associations campaign against death penalty

Campaigning against the death penalty in Morocco
Campaigning against the death penalty in Morocco
A coalition of associations in Morocco campaigning against the death penalty have organized on October 12 a symbolic sit-in in front of Parliament for the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty. The organizations are seeking to raise a national debate on fundamental human rights, as well as judicial errors and the lack of opportunity for the poorest to get a suitable defense during trial.

The issue is controversial as it pits religion against the constitutional charter. Article 20 guarantees the right to live and article 22 physical integrity. Islamic law, however, states that those who do wrong, pay with their lives. And the reform of the criminal code only reduces the number of crimes punished with the death penalty: 11 against the current 33. As far as parliamentary work is concerned, there is a project to abolish executions that has been presented over a year ago but debate has not been scheduled yet.

No execution has been carried out for over 20 years. The last dates back to 1993 and Amnesty International ranks Morocco among ''de facto abolitionist'' countries. But when debate takes place at the UN, Morocco abstains. The next vote is scheduled in 2016.

Meanwhile tribunals continue to sentence to death.

Last September, in Marrakech, a 24 and 26-year-old were sentenced to death after they were found guilty of causing a deadly car accident in which a family of four people died because they had thrown stones on the street.

A group of lawmakers, 240 across the political spectrum, including a pro-Islamist party, is pressing on the theme, along with a group of attorneys. Dossiers on the death penalty have been presented, including one testifying that 70 inmates sentenced to death and followed daily for five months were found to be malnourished and abandoned to their fate on death row as they were only trying to find a way to commit suicide.

Associations and individuals have set up the website (French, English, Arabic) tudert.ma (tudert means life in the berber language) where petitions and events are posted.

Source: ansamedinfo.com, October 9, 2015

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Indonesia: Groups want abolition of death penalty

 In conjunction with the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty, local rights groups have renewed their call for the government to abolish the death penalty, especially for drug convicts, as the penalty has failed to offer any meaningful deterrent effect.

Data from the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat) revealed that from May, or a month after the government conducted the 2nd round of this year's executions, to August, the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) carried out 10 large-scale drug raids, seizing 70 kilograms of methamphetamine, 235 kilograms of marijuana and 700 ecstasy pills.

"If we include data on raids by the police. The number would be higher," Ricky Gunawan of LBH Masyarakat said Thursday in Jakarta.

He said the data showed that the application of the death penalty was not an effective measure to combat drug-related crimes.

In recent years, Indonesia had appeared to be shifting away from the death penalty, in line with the global trend toward abolition. However, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, decided to embrace the practice, claiming that Indonesia was facing a drug emergency.

Since he took power in October 2014, he has allowed firing squads to execute 14 inmates convicted of drug-related offenses, the highest number of convicts executed since the country first implemented the penalty in 1980.

This year's executions were divided into 2 rounds. Australians Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 34, the ring leaders of the so-called Bali 9, were among the executed convicts shot in the 2nd round. Both were sentenced to death for smuggling 8.3 kg of heroin from Bali to Australia in 2005.

Executed on April 29, 2015
Executed on April 29, 2015
They had been detained for years at Kerobokan Prison in Bali before President Jokowi eventually rejected their clemency pleas and let the firing squad pull the trigger on April 29 this year.

The government will likely execute another 14 inmates next year. However, Attorney General HM Prasetyo said that his office had yet to determine the exact number of convicts to be executed.

Poengky, executive director of the human rights watchdog Imparsial, said that President Jokowi's firm stance on executions appeared to be primarily a public relations stunt.

"President Jokowi is trying to show that he promotes clean and firm governance," Poengky said. "He seems to be trying to reduce Indonesia's reputation as a corrupt nation with an unreliable legal system."

She said that it would be better for President Jokowi to allow the convicts to become justice collaborators to uncover more drug cases in the country. By killing them, she argued, the President lost any chance to hunt down more important perpetrators.

Wahyu Wagiman, the executive director of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), said that the death penalty inflicted mental suffering on death-row inmates because many spent years in detention fearing for their lives.

"The long detention period prior to the execution shows that the country's legal process lacks humanity," Wahyu said.

A study from the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) released in April 2015 revealed that the government handed down around 42 death sentences from 2002 to 2013, 11 of which were the result of an unfair judicial process. Jan Pronk, former Dutch development cooperation minister, said that Indonesian should follow the worldwide trend of ending the death penalty.

"Studies show that about 40 % of those executed in the US were innocent. And in some countries they say drug abuse is a major disease. But the death penalty does not scare off criminals. In Mexico, the US, the real criminals are never found." Pronk told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Source: The Jakarta Post, October 9, 2015

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Death-penalty opponents marching from Lucasville to Columbus, Ohio

Death-penalty opponents marching from Lucasville to Columbus
Death-penalty opponents marching from Lucasville to Columbus, Ohio
Cars and trucks whizzed by about a dozen people walking on blistered feet on Thursday along Rt. 23.

The group of death-penalty opponents were on day 4 of an 83-mile, weeklong journey to Columbus, where they plan to hold a rally on Saturday near the Statehouse.

Among those walking are a Texas-based Baptist minister, a previous death row inmate exonerated a decade ago and the son of Dr. Sam Sheppard, the Cleveland-area man convicted of killing his pregnant wife, whose case drew national media attention in the 1950s.

With a start at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, the prison near Lucasville where executions in the state are conducted, the group wants an end to the death penalty after a bout of botched executions and questions about lethal-injection drugs in Ohio and across the country.

"It's just wrong," said Derrick Jamison, 54, who served time on death row in Ohio for 20 years starting in 1985. "Shouldn't nobody have the right to say who should live or die."

Jamison considers himself a "survivor" of death row after he was exonerated for the killing of a nightclub owner in Cincinnati. Oct. 25 marks both the day Jamison was sent to and released from prison. As he celebrates 10 years since his release, Jamison admits that while many inmates on death row are indeed guilty, there are also innocent men.

"If you make a mistake with the death penalty, you can't go get a person out the grave and say 'Oh, my bad,' and they're (the state) making too many mistakes," he said.

Ohio's last execution was Jan. 16, 2014, when Dennis McGuire struggled and gasped for several minutes before succumbing to a combination of drugs not used before. The next execution is scheduled for January but as of August, the state was still trying to find drugs to use.

While lawmakers passed and Gov. John Kasich signed a bill intended to make getting execution drugs easier by keeping the source secret, a bipartisan House bill introduced this past summer calls for an end to the death penalty in the state.

"Ohio has an option, it's called life without parole," said Terry Collins, former director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. During his time with the department, Collins said he witnessed more than 30 executions. He now works to educate Ohioans about the death penalty and advocates for its abolition.

"I think a nationwide discussion about the death penalty has certainly changed whether, not just Ohio, but if the United States needs the death penalty," he said.

Sam Reese Sheppard, whose father appealed a death-penalty conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, said despite peoples' mixed opinions on the issue, he said Ohioans have been receptive to open conversation. "We've been on the road the past few days, and even if people disagree with us they're usually not vengeful or obnoxious about it."

The walkers, sponsored by Ohioans to Stop Executions and other groups, will hold a community dialogue at 7 p.m. today at 1021 E. Broad St. They also invite people to join the end of their walk Saturday at 10 a.m. from 1500 S. 4th St. The rally will take place at noon Saturday in front of Trinity Episcopal Church, 125 E. Broad St.

Source: Columbus Dispatch, October 9, 2015

Death row exonerees come to Cleveland to promote abolishing executions

After spending decades in prison and years on death row for a murder in Cleveland that he did not commit, Kwame Ajamu has committed his life to abolishing the death penalty.

Ajamu joined execution abolitionist groups and death row exonerees from across the country who gathered in Cleveland Friday morning to press their message ahead of Saturday's World Day Against the Death Penalty conference in North Olmsted.

Kwame Ajamu spent years on death row after being wrongfully convicted of a Cleveland murder.

"We hope that we can end this atrocity today," Kwame said during a tearful press conference. "We hope that tomorrow's newspapers would say that there's no more death penalty. We know that this won't happen, but this is our goal."

Ajamu, who was known as Ronnie Bridgeman, was put on death row after being wrongfully convicted in 1975 of murdering a money order salesman with his brother and best friend.

The convictions of all three men were tossed after they collectively spent more than 100 years behind bars.

"If there's anything that I would beg for this country, for this world to listen to is the heartfelt cries and pleas of myself and fellow comrades who have been exonerated from death," Ajamu said.

He stood with about 20 men and women who were once on death row and are now members of Witness to Innocence, a national group of exonerees fighting to end state-sponsored executions.

Too many innocent people have been put to death, said Ohioans to Stop Executions Director Kevin Werner.

"If the legislature is bent on keeping the death penalty, they should at least make sure there are no mistakes," Werner said.

He suggested reforming the justice system to prevent wrongful convictions and setting higher standards for the execution process.

There are 24 people scheduled to be executed in Ohio in the next 4 years, Werner said.

State Rep. Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat who also spoke at the press conference, has introduced legislation that would do away with executions.

"The best reform is to abolish capital punishment and replace it with a sentence of life without parole," Antonio said. "It is time to execute justice, not to execute people."

Saturday's conference in North Olmsted is one of many events scheduled worldwide for World Day Against the Death Penalty.

The public event will feature workshops and talks from Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy Margaret Russo, World Coalition Against the Death Penalty President Elizabeth Zitrin and others.

The conference is set to begin at 9 a.m. at St. Clarence Church.

Source: cleveland.com, October 9, 2015

Death row survivors meet in downtown Cleveland

In a press conference at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland, Representative Nickie Antonio, D-13, welcomed dozens of members of Witness to Innocence, the national organization of wrongly convicted and exonerated death row survivors.

Antonio joined with them in calling for an end to the death penalty in Ohio and other reforms to prevent wrongful executions. She was introduced a bill with bi-partisan sponsorship.

The event coincided with worldwide activities around the international World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10th.

Among others peaking was Kwame Ajamu who was formally exonerated of the 1975 murder for which he was convicted and sentenced to death in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Ajamu was 17 years old at the time he was placed on Ohio's death row, and said he still harbors a lot of bitterness from 27 years of wrongful incarceration. Ajamu has dedicated his life to ending capital punishment in Ohio.

Witness to Innocence, Ohioans to Stop Executions, death row exonerees and their loved ones and supporters gathered earlier at St. Clarence Church in North Olmsted, Ohio as part of their effort to increase support for abolition of capital punishment.

Source: WTAM news, October 9, 2015

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Death Penalty Day: Europe underlines its firm opposition to capital punishment

European Parliament
European Parliament
Ahead of the World and European Day against the Death Penalty (10 October), the 47-nation Council of Europe and the 28-member European Union have issued a joint declaration underlining their firm opposition to capital punishment and calling on countries across Europe to move towards abolition.

The declaration from Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland and the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, points out that no Council of Europe or EU member states have carried out executions since 1997.

It also calls on those European countries which have not yet done so to ratify 2 protocols to the European Convention on Human Rights which aim to abolish the death penalty.

"On the European and World Day against the Death Penalty, the Council of Europe and the European Union reaffirm their strong opposition to capital punishment. The death penalty is inhuman and degrading treatment, does not have any proven significant deterrent effect, and allows judicial errors to become irreversible and fatal.

No execution has been carried out in our member states for 18 years. The Council of Europe and the European Union urge all European States to ratify the protocols to the European Convention on Human Rights which aim at the abolition of the death penalty.

The Council of Europe and the European Union deplore the continuing use of the death penalty in Belarus. They strongly urge the authorities of Belarus to commute the remaining death sentences and establish without delay a formal moratorium on executions as a 1st step towards abolition of the death penalty.

The Council of Europe and the European Union note with concern that the number of executions of persons for drug offences has increased during the last year in the few states that apply the death penalty to those offences. Both Organizations are particularly alarmed when this involves the execution of minors, which is contrary to international law. It is all the closer to heart because some European citizens have been executed in 2015 and others are still on death row for drug-related offences.

The Council of Europe and the European Union welcome the Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty adopted on 18 December 2014. With an increasing number of votes in favour of that resolution compared to the previous four resolutions of this kind, and with almost 2/3 of countries in the world having abolished the death penalty in either law or practice, there exists now a clear global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment," is said in a joint Declaration by the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland.

Source: Panorama.am, October 9, 2015

Amnesty International USA Statement on 2015 World Day Against the Death Penalty

The 13th annual World Day Against the Death Penalty will take place on Saturday, October 10th. Activists and organizations will hold events around the globe to call for the universal abolition of capital punishment. 

In recognition of the day, Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, released the following statement:

"In just the past few weeks, three people have been sent to the death chambers in the United States. One of those executed did not commit the murder she was sentenced to die for, and another showed strong signs of intellectual disability.

"The tally nearly reached 4 executions in just over a week's time, but for the bungling of an execution in Oklahoma. The state procured the wrong drug to kill the prisoner, only realizing the mistake at the very last minute. Now the state's Attorney General is investigating what went wrong.

"In fact, just about everything is wrong with the capital punishment system. It's fundamentally broken and should be ended once and for all.

"Thankfully the death penalty is in decline in the United States and around the world. Last year, executions in the United States were at a 20-year low, and death sentences were at their lowest level since 1976. What's more, 19 states plus the District of Columbia have banned capital punishment, and 7 other states have not carried out an execution in 10 years.

"It's really just a handful of states that are still aggressively pursuing executions. Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, in particular, are moving further and further away from national standards of decency. Globally, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, and only 22 carried out executions last year.

"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The United States cannot practice it and claim to be a human rights leader on the global stage. Now is the time to end capital punishment for good."

Source: Amnesty International USA, October 9, 2015

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Arkansas judge halts executions of 8 on death row

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen temporarily halted the scheduled executions of eight death row prisoners on Friday.

In an order issued in the inmates' lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Correction, Griffen wrote "that immediate and irreparable harm will result to plaintiffs absent a temporary restraining order enjoining defendants from executing plaintiffs as scheduled."

Nine inmates filed suit June 29 seeking to have the state law that sets out the method of execution declared unconstitutional. 

The suit also asked that the state be permanently blocked from using the current lethal injection method of execution.

Friday's order applies to all nine inmates, but only eight of them have scheduled execution dates, the earliest being Oct. 21. Plaintiffs Don Davis and Bruce Ward were to be executed that day.

Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 9, 2015

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USA: Enough is a enough on capital punishment

On Sept. 30, at the very last minute, Oklahoma once again stayed Richard Glossip's execution. The state had been about to inject him with a drug cocktail using potassium acetate instead of the specified potassium chloride, but the Department of Corrections apparently did not realize it had the wrong drug until just before the scheduled execution and, because of Oklahoma's secrecy laws, no one else did, either.

The victim's family issued an agonized statement about the confusion and delay; while Glossip, in the execution holding cell, wondered why he hadn't been executed yet, his grieving family and friends believed he had been executed.

We had once been fervent supporters of capital punishment. One of us, Mark White, oversaw 19 executions while governor of Texas; the other, Mark Earley, oversaw 39 while attorney general of Virginia. Gradually, as we have seen the fallibility of the capital punishment system, we have come to the conclusion that the death penalty serves no one and, as we saw recently in Oklahoma, is simply cruel to all involved.

We do not yet know how Oklahoma got the wrong drug. We know that Glossip's lawyers had been desperately trying for months to get information on the execution protocol, including the source of the drugs and the qualifications of the execution team, but the state secrecy laws prevented them from doing so.

At the very last minute, the state realized it had the wrong drug, and officials at the Department of Corrections did the right thing by asking Gov. Mary Fallin to stay the execution until they could get things straightened out. We don't know if they can, because the state has now asked for and received an indefinite stay not only of Glossip's execution, but also of 2 others who had been scheduled for later this month.

Had there been appropriate transparency, perhaps this whole mess would have been avoided. We simply don't know.

And that is the heart of the matter. No one knows what is happening as states continue their efforts to execute people, even in the face of botched executions (including the Clayton Lockett execution in Oklahoma last year), death row inmates without lawyers, racial discrimination, possibly exonerating evidence that is revealed, if at all, at the last minute, and other profound problems.

In Glossip's case, witness recantations and changes in stories have raised real questions about whether he was even involved in the murder for which he is to be executed. Despite Glossip maintaining his claims of innocence throughout the process, the courts have ruled that his execution should go forward anyway. Perhaps this delay in carrying out the sentence will give Glossip's lawyers more time to pursue these claims.

This is not justice, not for anyone involved in the system, and certainly not for the families of victims, and for those who might be executed despite weak or erroneous evidence, mistaken drug protocols, and states desperately trying to keep it all secret.

The most extreme expression of any state's power is its ability to execute one of its citizens. Having watched these tragedies play out across the country for years, we have now come to the only conclusion possible: Enough is enough. It's time for every governor (or other elected official or relevant agency) in every state that continues to rely on capital punishment - an increasingly dwindling number - to impose an immediate moratorium on administration of the death penalty.

If states are going to have the death penalty, then state officials cannot continue to cloak their executions and inquiries into the execution process in secrecy, preventing counsel for the condemned, the courts and the public from obtaining basic details about how the states intend to carry out the ultimate punishment of death.

The Constitution Project, the American Bar Association, and any number of other good government organizations oppose this secrecy and advocate complete transparency. We agree. Death penalty states must not continue to conceal their lethal injection practices behind walls of secrecy.

Source: Tulsa World, October 9, 2015. Mark White, a Democrat, is a former governor of Texas, having previously served as the state's attorney general. Mark Earley, a Republican, is a former attorney general of Virginia. They are members of The Constitution Project Death Penalty Committee.

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Relief Denied: Licho Escamilla to be 12th Texan executed this year

Licho Escamilla
Licho Escamilla in 2001
Texas will execute its 12th Texan this year when it sends Licho Escamilla to the gurney on Wed., Oct. 14.

Escamilla was convicted of capital murder in the Nov. 25, 2001, shooting death of 34-year-old Christopher Kevin James, an off-duty policeman carrying out secondary employment as a security guard at Dallas' Club DMX.

Escamilla, 33, shot James at 2:45am after a fight broke out on the sidewalk of the northwest Dallas club. (Evidence has also been presented to implicate that Escamilla fatally shot another man, Michael Torres, days before James' murder.)

One other officer was wounded in the gunfire and survived.

Escamilla was 19 at the time and already wanted for another slaying. Testimony at his trial showed he also was wounded in the gunfire and was arrested as he tried to carjack a vehicle to flee the scene.
Considered indigent, he was represented by underprepared attorneys who brought only 10 pages of handwritten investigatory notes to trial and attempted to sway jurors into convicting Escamilla of murder charges rather than capital murder (an admission of guilt for Escamilla) because at the time of the murder, James wasn't technically working as a Dallas police officer.

His counsel's admission and altogether ineffective assistance throughout proceedings have led the arguments Escamilla and his current set of attorneys have used in attempts to stave off his execution. (Escamilla has also brought up his abusive upbringing, and suggested that Texas' lethal injection protocols violate the Eighth Amendment.)

Thus far, he hasn't had much luck. Petitions for relief at the state and federal levels have both been unsuccessful, as was an April 2012 motion for a new trial (on many of the same grounds).

In February, Escamilla learned that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals did not see enough mitigating evidence in earlier requests for relief to reverse the decision on his execution.

Escamilla had a final petition with the U.S. Supreme Court denied Monday morning. He stands to be the 530th Texan executed since 1976.

Sources: Austin Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, October 5-8, 2015

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Death Penalty States Face Hurdles in Carrying Out Executions

Despite a Supreme Court ruling allowing a controversial drug to be used for lethal injections in Oklahoma, death-penalty states are finding it harder to carry out executions as they struggle to obtain and properly use limited supplies of ever-changing combinations of lethal injection drugs.

Prison officials in Texas and Virginia have improvised a short-term solution by trading drugs for lethal injections. Both Ohio and Nebraska have sought to buy a drug no longer available in the United States from overseas only to be told by the federal Food and Drug Administration that importing the drug is illegal.

Executions in Mississippi have been postponed for months over a federal lawsuit challenging the state's 3-drug protocol. The delay will stretch into next year, with a trial scheduled in July 2016. And in Montana on Tuesday, a judge blocked the state from carrying out executions, ruling that 1 of the 2 drugs it planned to use did not comply with the state law governing lethal injections. The only way Montana can resume executions with that drug, the judge said, is by having the State Legislature modify the law.

"Over time lethal injection has become only more problematic and chaotic," said Deborah W. Denno, a professor at Fordham Law School and an expert on lethal injections.

Oklahoma last week halted the execution of Richard E. Glossip, who was part of the challenge the Supreme Court had turned down, after officials realized 2 hours before it was to take place that the state's supplier had sent prison officials the wrong drug. The error led to a court-ordered stay of the 3 executions scheduled in October and November while officials conduct an investigation.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled against Mr. Glossip and 2 other Oklahoma death-row inmates who argued that 1 of the drugs in the state's 3-drug protocol - midazolam, a short-acting sedative - was unreliable. But the court's decision has had little impact, experts said. Several states appear to be reluctant to use midazolam in part because of its involvement in 3 high-profile executions in which prisoners appeared to suffer last year, in Oklahoma, Ohio and Arizona.

The apprehension over midazolam, combined with a drug shortage caused by manufacturers' ceasing production or limiting how drugs can be used, has made it increasingly difficult for states to obtain drugs and carry out executions without delays, mistakes or controversies, and without pushing the legal limits of how drugs can be obtained.

The scramble for drugs has caused some states to embrace or consider more unusual or more antiquated ways of putting inmates to death.

In 2014, Tennessee authorized prison officials to use the electric chair if lethal-injection drugs were unavailable. Gov. Gary R. Herbert of Utah signed a bill into law in March approving firing squads when drugs cannot be obtained. In April, Oklahoma made nitrogen gas its new backup method. In Louisiana, where executions have been postponed following a federal lawsuit over its lethal-injection system, prison officials recommended in a report in February that nitrogen gas be adopted as an alternative method, through the use of a mask or other device but not a gas chamber.

Lethal injections in many of the nation's 31 death-penalty states have become increasingly varied in the type, combination and source of drugs used. The 6 executions in 6 states in January 2014 were conducted using 4 different protocols, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a group that opposes capital punishment.

In 1 of those cases, 2 drugs - midazolam and hydromorphone - were used together for the 1st time for an execution in the United States. The Ohio inmate who was injected with them in January 2014, Dennis McGuire, appeared to struggle for several minutes.

1 year later, Ohio officials said they would no longer use the 2-drug combination they had used on Mr. McGuire and postponed all executions planned for 2015 until they obtained new drugs. As it prepares to resume executions in 2016, Ohio's search for new drugs earned it a warning from federal authorities, after prison officials explored buying a sedative, sodium thiopental, from overseas. In June, an Food and Drug Administration official told the state in a letter that "there is no F.D.A.-approved application for sodium thiopental, and it is illegal to import an unapproved new drug into the United States."

Ohio officials declined to answer questions about the letter. JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the agency "continues to seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court-ordered executions."

In Nebraska, where proponents of the death penalty have been fighting a vote in May by state legislators to abolish capital punishment, prison officials ordered lethal-injection drugs from India but said they had not received them. A spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said hundreds of vials and capsules of sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide were ordered at a cost of more than $50,000.

Despite the Supreme Court's ruling allowing the use of midazolam, Florida has been blocked for months in using it as part of its 3-drug method because of legal challenges over midazolam raised by a death-row inmate, Jerry Correll. The Florida Supreme Court ruled against him on Friday.

In Texas, the execution of Michael Yowell in 2013 marked the 1st time the state had used a sedative known as pentobarbital that was made not by a drug manufacturer but by a compounding pharmacy. Such pharmacies are largely unregulated by the F.D.A. Texas changed its protocol from a 3-drug cocktail to a single drug after its stock of one of the drugs expired and it was unable to obtain a new shipment.

Virginia found itself in a similar situation as it prepared to execute Alfredo R. Prieto last week for the murders of a Virginia couple in 1988. Virginia uses a 3-drug combination that includes midazolam. The state's stock of midazolam was set to expire, and officials were unable to obtain additional supplies, according to court documents. Virginia wanted another sedative, pentobarbital, and turned to Texas for help.

Texas prison officials donated 3 vials of pentobarbital to the Virginia Department of Corrections for Mr. Prieto's execution, and 2 Virginia prison employees traveled to Texas in late August to bring the vials to Virginia, according to court papers. Texas was returning a favor: In 2013, Texas officials facing a shortage of pentobarbital were given the drug by Virginia.

"Even if the transactions between states do not comply with law, there is no recourse for death-sentenced prisoners," said Megan McCracken, a lethal-injection expert with the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. "Over the years, we have seen states obtain drugs for execution in ways that clearly do not comply with legal and regulatory frameworks."

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said the supply of pentobarbital given to Virginia in August was legally purchased from a compounding pharmacy and tested for potency and purity. He said Texas law prohibited the agency from disclosing the supplier's identity.

Lawyers for Mr. Prieto questioned the efficacy of the drug. Virginia officials argued that Texas has used compounded pentobarbital successfully in 24 executions in 2 years. A federal judge sided with Virginia, and allowed Mr. Prieto's execution to proceed last week.

Source: New York Times, October 8, 2015

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Saudi juveniles now in ‘solitary confinement’ far from families, says father

Ali al-Nimr
Ali al-Nimr
The father of Ali al-Nimr, a Saudi juvenile facing execution for his role in protests, has spoken of his uncertainty and concern about the fate of his son, as it emerged Ali and a second juvenile are now being held in solitary confinement in a prison in Riyadh.

Speaking last night, Mohammed al-Nimr said that the family hadn’t seen their son since 15th September, saying: “I’m very worried now, because they’ve moved my son to a prison in Riyadh, and he’s in solitary confinement – I fear he could be executed at any moment.” He added that Ali was among several other young men sentenced to death in the wake of protests, including Dawoud al-Marhoon, whose sentence of beheading was upheld last week.

Both Ali and Dawoud were 17 when they were arrested in the wake of protests in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Both received death sentences after being tortured into ‘confessions’ used to convict them in the country’s secretive Specialized Criminal Court. Executions are shrouded in secrecy in Saudi Arabia, and it is possible that both juveniles could now be executed at any time, without prior notification to their families. However, speaking to Al Jazeera this week, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, the Saudi permanent representative to the UN, suggested that Ali’s case was still “being reviewed in legal circles”, ahead of his execution receiving the “personal approval of the King”.

Speaking to Channel 4 last night, Ali’s father Mohammed al-Nimr said that as the UK and Saudi Arabia had a “warm relationship”, he hoped that interventions by the British government would save his son. Prime Minister David Cameron has said the government has raised Ali’s case with the Saudi authorities; however, the Ministry of Justice has faced criticism over its ongoing bid to provide services to the Saudi prison system, which would be responsible for carrying out Ali and Dawoud’s executions.

Concerns over the UK’s position come amid growing calls for firmer interventions from close allies of Saudi Arabia, such as the UK and the US. Yesterday, the European Parliament passed a resolution that called on member states – including the UK – to “deploy all their diplomatic tools and make every effort to immediately stop the execution” of Ali and others arrested at protests.

Commenting, Kate Higham, caseworker at human rights organization Reprieve, said: “Saudi Arabia’s plans to kill Ali and Dawoud are appalling, and have rightly caused an international outcry. Now these two juveniles – who have been through a shocking ordeal of torture and unfair trials – have been disappeared to solitary confinement, far from their families, who have no idea what the next few days could bring. We can only imagine how terrified they must be. Countries like the UK and the US, who count the Saudis among their closest allies, must listen to Ali’s father and urge a halt to these executions. Britain’s Ministry of Justice must also urgently call off its bid to provide services to the Saudi prison service that will carry out these executions.”

Mohammed al-Nimr's comments were made to Channel 4 and the BBC in interviews broadcast last night. They can be viewed here and here.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Alarming number of countries flout international law by executing for drug-related crimes

Meth bust in Indonesia
Meth bust in Indonesia
The death penalty continues to be used as a tool in the so-called "war on drugs", with an alarming number of states across the globe executing people convicted on drug-related charges, in clear violation of international law, Amnesty International said ahead of the World Day against the Death Penalty (10 October).

At least 11 countries across the globe - including China, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia - have handed down death sentences or executed people for drug-related crimes over the past 2 years, while dozens of states maintain the death penalty for drug-related offences.

"It's disheartening that so many countries are still clinging to the flawed idea that killing people will somehow end addiction or reduce crime. The death penalty does nothing to tackle crime or enable people who need help to access the treatment for drug addiction," said Chiara Sangiorgio, Amnesty International's death penalty expert.

International law restricts the use of the death penalty to the "most serious crimes" - generally defined to include only intentional killing. Drug crimes do not fall into this category. International law also sets the goal for states to move towards abolition of the death penalty.

Yet many states justify the use of the death penalty as a way to tackle drug trafficking or problematic drug use. These states are ignoring evidence that a response focused on human rights and public health, including prevention of substance abuse and access to treatment, has been effective to end drug-related deaths and prevent the transmission of infectious diseases. Even in relation to violent crime, there is not a shred of evidence that the threat of execution is more of a deterrent than any other form of punishment.

In Indonesia, for example, the government under President Joko Widodo vowed to use the death penalty to combat a "national drug emergency". 14 people convicted of drug-related crimes have been put to death in 2015 so far and the government has said it will deny all clemency applications put forward by people convicted on drug charges.

"The use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes is far from the only concern. Shahrul Izani Suparman, for example, was just 19 years old when he was found in possession of more than 200g of cannabis, automatically presumed guilty of drug trafficking and later handed a mandatory death sentence in Malaysia," said Chiara Sangiorgio.

In many of the countries where the death penalty is imposed for drug-related crimes, the injustice is compounded by death sentences being handed down after manifestly unfair trials. Defendants are routinely denied access to lawyers, or coerced to make "confessions" through torture or other ill-treatment which are admitted as evidence, in countries like Indonesia, Iran or Saudi Arabia.

In April 2016 the UN General Assembly, the UN main deliberative body, will gather in a Special Session on drugs to discuss the world's drug control priorities, including the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences. The last time a special session on drugs was held was in 1998.

"The Special Session of the UN General Assembly next year will offer a critical opportunity to states to ensure that drug policies at both national and international level comply with international human rights law. States must once and for all put an end to the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences as a 1st step towards its full abolition," Said Chiara Sangiorgio.

Country examples

--China executed more people than the rest of the world put together last year, but with death penalty figures treated as a state secret the exact number is impossible to determine. Based on the data that able to confirm, people convicted on drug-related offences make up a significant proportion of those executed. China has made tentative steps to cut down on its use of the death penalty in recent years, including by reducing the crimes punishable by death. Drug-related crimes, however, continue to attract the death penalty.

--Indonesia has executed 14 people this year, all accused of drug trafficking. This has been a regressive step for a country that had looked to be moving to end executions just a few years ago, and which has successfully made efforts to seek commutations of death sentences for Indonesian citizens on death row in other countries. The use of the death penalty in Indonesia is riddled with flaws, as suspects are routinely tortured into "confessions" or subjected to unfair trials.

--Iran is the world's 2nd-most prolific executioner, 2nd only to China, and the country has put thousands of people to death for drug-related crimes over the past decades. Iran's extremely harsh drug laws mean that a person can be sentenced to death for possessing 30g of heroin or cocaine. More than 700 executions have been carried out in 2015 alone - many of those executed are foreign nationals and people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. 

--Drug trafficking in Malaysia carries the mandatory death sentence, and people found in possession of certain amounts of illegal substances are automatically presumed to be trafficking drugs. Malaysia does not publish information on executions, but Amnesty International's monitoring suggests that 1/2 of the death sentences imposed in recent years are for drug trafficking convictions.

--Executions for drug-related offenses have skyrocketed in Saudi Arabia over the past 3 years. In 2014, almost 1/2 of all 92 people who were known to have been put to death were convicted for drug-related crimes. Saudi Arabia's justice system lacks the most basic safeguards to ensure the right to a fair trial is protected. Often death sentences are imposed after unfair and summary proceedings, which are in some cases held in secret.


In 2014 and 2015, Amnesty International recorded executions or death sentences for drug-related offences in the following countries: China, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam.

As of today, drug-related offences, which can include different charges ranging from drug trafficking to drug possession, are punishable by death in more than 30 countries.

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

Source: Amnesty International, October 8, 2015

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Texas: Gabriel Hall sentenced to death by lethal injection

Gabriel Hall
Gabriel Hall
After more than seven hours of deliberation, a Brazos County jury has sentenced Gabriel Hall to die by lethal injection.

Hall was convicted Sept. 11 in the 2011 slaying of Edwin Shaar, who was shot and stabbed. Hall also seriously injured Shaar's wife, Linda.

The jury began deliberations shortly after 12:30 p.m.

Jurors did not vote on life in prison or the death penalty, instead, they were instructed to answer two questions presented by the court in its instruction.

First, they had to decide if there was a probability that Hall would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society.

Ten votes were needed for a "no" answer, 12 votes are needed for a "yes."

Because the jury answered yes, it moved on to question two: whether there was anything in the defendant's character, background or moral culpability that bears a specific mitigating circumstance to warrant life in prison over the death penalty.

Jurors found nothing significantly mitigating to warrant life in prison.

Many of the jurors cried as Judge Travis Bryan III delivered the sentence. Gabriel Hall showed no emotion.

District Attorney Jarvis Parsons said he felt mixed emotions after the sentence was delivered. He said anyone who is human realizes the magnitude of what happened.

“It’s not something you feel joy about, because it’s a tragedy on both sides,” Parsons said. “We don’t take any pleasure in what happened, we just hope it gives some sense of peace to the Shaar family.”

Linda Shaar and her son were present for closing arguments, but didn’t stay for the verdict.

Defense attorneys declined to comment.

Death sentences are automatically sent to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for review.

Source: The Eagle, Jake Walker, October 7, 2015

After rare 10-month respite, Texas death row gets 1st new inmate in 2015

Death row in Texas is getting its 1st new inmate in 2015, ending a 10-month hiatus in death sentences imposed by juries in the nation's most active capital punishment state.

A Brazos County jury decided after 7 hours of deliberation Wednesday that 22-year-old Gabriel Hall should be put to death for an attack that left a 68-year-old man dead and his wife injured at the couple's home in College Station.

It is the 1st death sentence imposed in Texas since last December.

Jurors rejected the option of sending Hall to prison for life with no chance of parole - the outcome in 3 other Texas capital cases this year where the death penalty was a possibility.

Brazos County is about 100 miles northwest of Houston.

Source: Associated Press, October 8, 2015

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