"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, April 30, 2016

Indonesia ‘completes’ preparations for executions

Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo
Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo
Indonesia’s attorney general announced Friday that all technical preparations for executing drug convicts have been completed, but would not disclose when the next round of inmates would be brought before the firing squad.

"Coordination and preparation have already been handled. Coordination has been completed by all parties concerned," detik.com quoted Muhammad Prasetyo as saying at his office.

“But the timing has not been determined,” he told reporters.

Authorities had earlier said that the death penalties would be implemented after the rainy season, which is predicted to end this month, or after the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, set to end in early July.

Prasetyo reiterated Friday that the first group to be executed at the prison island of Nusakambangan in Central Java would include convicts who had exhausted their legal options, but refused to name them.

He revealed, however, that a Filipina whose execution was delayed last year after her suspected recruiter surrendered to Philippine police would not be among the first round as her case was ongoing in the neighboring country.

"We respect the legal process in the Philippines," kompas.com quoted Prasetyo as saying of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso.

Central Java’s police chief said Thursday that they had prepared the firing squad, spiritual leaders and doctors who would assist the execution process.

"Around the [execution] time and so on, we are waiting on the Attorney General. Police are ready at any time,” national news agency Antara quoted Inspector Gen. Condro Kirono as saying.

He added that the firing squad would be organized at the same location as the two previous executions.

The executions last year were heavily criticized by the international community, with some countries whose nationals had been put to death withdrawing ambassadors from Jakarta.

Indonesia has some of the harshest anti-drugs laws in the world.

Source: Turkish Weekly, Ainur Rohmah, April 29, 2016

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Memories of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran can help us fight the death penalty

Immense public support surrounded the Mercy Campaign's effort to save 2 Australians from death row. We can't let the lessons learnt from that go to waste

A year on, people still approach me to talk about what they were doing and how they were feeling the night of the Indonesian executions.

The partner of an accounting firm told me how he couldn't sleep that night, and spent until dawn watching Sky news and crying.

A mobile phone wholesaler in Melbourne jumped on a last minute flight to Sydney because he heard there was a vigil in Martin Place and he wanted to be around people who cared.

Others - whose churchgoing habits were dusty - found themselves praying.

On the Mercy Campaign Facebook page, conversations went on through the night: "I can't believe this is actually happening" or "I can't believe how affected I am by this".

For the 1st part of last year, it felt like the executions were all anyone could talk about. Would Indonesia do it? Could Australia intervene? Should Australia intervene? Did the "Bali 9" pair Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan deserve it?

There was an emotional tenor that ran through the debate that marked it as different from other issues. Both Julie Bishop and Tanya Plibersek were at their most compassionate and eloquent when speaking about the death penalty in parliament.

People signed petitions (the Mercy Campaign collected 250,000 signatures), attended vigils, wrote to the Indonesian president directly, begging that Chan's and Sukumaran's lives be spared. Thousands of songs, pieces of artwork, poems and videos were created pleading for mercy. We used to post them on the campaign Facebook page, but towards the end there were so many that we couldn't keep track.

And yet ...

A year ago 8 men - among them the Australians Chan and Sukumaran - were killed by firing squad in Indonesia, while their families kept vigil on the mainland, close enough to hear the gunshots.

After the sound came the fury. Australia withdrew its ambassador to Indonesia, foreign minister Julie Bishop did not rule out reducing Australia's foreign aid to Indonesia then-prime minister Tony Abbott also didn't mince words:

We respect Indonesia's sovereignty, but we do deplore what's been done and this cannot be simply business as usual.

Then a lull.

No one else has been killed by firing squad in Indonesia, although plenty remain on death row. The global outpouring of condemnation surely played a part in this but that hasn't been the local rationale.

Earlier this year, Indonesian media reported that economic concerns over the executions had lead to an unofficial moratorium but this is cold comfort. Unless there is a total abolition of the death penalty in Indonesia, those on death row are vulnerable to sudden announcements about executions - the government needs to give only 3 days notice for an execution.

So it could happen again, and rumours are that it could happen soon. It's already happening - all the time - in the United States, Vietnam, China, Japan, Yemen, Egypt, India, North Korea, Malaysia just to name a few.

Australians have shown they can organise and unite en masse against the death penalty when their citizens are at risk of being executed (Indonesia has shown the same capacity when its citizens are subject to the death penalty abroad). It was Chan's and Sukumaran's wish that the fight against the death penalty continue regardless of the outcome of their own clemency plea.

Here are some of the lessons we learnt from the Mercy Campaign.

Empathy is crucial

Ambulances carrying the coffins of the executed prisoners
Ambulances carrying the coffins of the executed prisoners
Sukumaran, Chan and their families were leading the news bulletins for more than 50 days from the end of 2014 to their deaths in April 2015. The more we heard their story - about the work they were doing in prison, about the community they built in Kerobokan, about their rehabilitation - the more difficult it was to cold-heartedly dismiss their plight.

Many people commenting on the Mercy Campaign Facebook page would often say, "I feel like I know them."

The media has power

There was little empathy for Sukumaran and Chan in the early days of their incarceration when News Corp media assigned them cartoonish monikers of the Enforcer and the Kingpin. That proved a hard perception to shake. When journalist Mark Davis gained access to Kerobokan he asked them about this tag. They both burst out laughing at the absurdity of it.

What drug kingpin drives a second hand car and lives with his parents, asked Andrew.

In the end, Chan and Sukumaran's executions stung Indonesia's economy, not its conscience.

Sukumaran told The Monthly: "I'm still looking for my 'green Mercedes' and my 'many girlfriends'."

Yet coverage of Myuran and Andrew in News Corp papers shifted markedly in the final years of their lives. The Courier-Mail published a powerful editorial in January 2015 denouncing the executions and The Australian ran a compelling front page with every living prime minister pleading with the Indonesian president for mercy. News Corp's stance had well and truly softened and public opinion followed. By the end of their lives, some of the most compassionate pieces of journalism about Sukumaran and Chan were written by News Corp journalists.

The clemency movement is diverse

The Catholic church has had a long and noble tradition in this country in taking the lead in activism on death penalty cases, from Ronald Ryan to Van Nguyen. This time, while there was support from institutions such as the Australian Catholic University and regular vigils at churches in Melbourne, other groups and individuals from vastly different spheres stepped up and became very powerful advocates for clemency.

Supporters for clemency included the artist Ben Quilty, musicians such as Temper Trap and the Presets, broadcaster Alan Jones, the legal community - particularly in Melbourne - some unions, and clergy from a variety of faiths, including Christian and Muslim.

It was an incredible coalition of people from both the left and right, and everything in between. The apolitical nature of the campaign and this diversity and made the movement for clemency inclusive and stronger.

Politicians showed leadership - and that matters

There are so many pressing social issues - such as treatment of asylum seekers - where there is no leadership from the ruling party, and also no dissent from the opposition. Yet last year, support for clemency was bi-partisan, sending a strong message that Australia does not support the death penalty, either here or abroad.

A year on, and now our politicians - indeed all of us that deplored the executions in Indonesia - need to keep fighting to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

Source: The Guardian, Opinion, Brigid Delaney, April 28, 2016. Brigid Delaney was a co-founder of the Mercy Campaign.


The 8 people executed on April 29, 2015

Andrew Chan, Australia - a member of the Bali 9 drug smugglers. In his decade of imprisonment he became a pastor and helped many fellow inmates through counselling.

Myuran Sukumaran, Australia - dubbed a ringleader of the Bali 9 along with Chan, he became an accomplished painter behind bars and helped inmates find purpose and skills through art programs.

Rodrigo Gularte, Brazil - executed despite being twice diagnosed with schizophrenia. Arrested at Jakarta airport in 2004 with 6kg of cocaine, Gularte did not understand he was going to be executed until the final moments.

Martin Anderson, Nigeria - arrested in Jakarta in 2003 for possessing about 1.8 ounces of heroin. Police shot him in the leg during his arrest and the injury troubled him for his remaining years.

Okwuduli Oyatanze, Nigeria - sentenced to death in 2002 for attempting to bring 2.5kg of heroin through Jakarta in capsules inside his stomach. He was a gospel singer whose deep Christian faith touched many who met him.

Raheem Salami, Nigeria - was homeless in Bangkok when he was offered $400 to take a package of clothes to Indonesia. He was arrested in Surabaya with 5.5kg of heroin and originally sentenced to life in prison in 1999.

Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Nigeria - convicted in 2002 of smuggling just over a kilogram of heroin into Indonesia. He was lured to Pakistan with the promise of work, but instead offered the task of flying to Indonesia with what he thought were capsules of goat horn powder.

Zainal Abidin, Indonesia - A laborer from Palembang, Abidin was transferred for execution despite having a live judicial appeal. 2 men convicted with Abidin, who he claimed were the masterminds of a plot to sell marijuana, served prison sentences and were released.

Source: rappler.com, April 28, 2016

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Bali 9 executions: Some of Myuran Sukumaran’s last words revealed, 1 year later

Self-portrait and portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran, Nusakambangan Island, April 2015
Self-portrait and portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran,
Nusakambangan Island, April 2015
On the one-year anniversary of the of execution of Bali Nine Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, some chilling last words have been revealed. 

Before the firing squad ended his life, Sukumaran imparted his final thoughts with spiritual advisor, Reverend Christie Buckingham. 

“Do me a favor,” News Corp Australia quoted him as telling her. 

“Ask the question in a year’s time, has this made any difference? Has it made any difference in Indonesia? Has it made any difference to the way Australians feel about the death penalty? Ask this question in one year, in five years and in 10 years. Ask it to yourself, ask it to those around you and ask it to anyone who will listen. Has this made a difference either way? Has this made a difference?”

And perhaps as just a chilling revelation as Sukumaran’s last questions is that several members of the firing squad approached Buckingham to seek forgiveness, she says. 

“He pulled his mask down and said ‘Maaf, Maaf’ (the Indonesian word for sorry).

“I just said Myu forgives you, I forgive you, God forgives you.”

Sukumaran and Chan were executed along with six others a year ago from today. The Bali Nine ringleaders were handed down the death penalty for a 2005 trafficking plot to smuggle heroin out of Bali into Australia. After a lengthy appeals process and many attempts to get clemency, they faced the firing squad, despite wide reports of their extensive rehabilitation efforts and progress. 

And while execution talk has significantly slowed in the last year, reports are saying a new round of executions could come soon. An Indonesian delegate was booed at a UN meeting after defending the use of the death penalty on drug offenders earlier this month, but Indonesia seems resolute to keep executions coming. 

But in response to Sukumaran, it seems even after the executions were meant to be such a great deterrent, drugs remain rampant throughout Bali and Indonesia. There are quite regular reports of both users and dealers being arrested and still stories of drug trading being run from inside Indonesia’s jails. 

Source: Coconuts Bali, April 29, 2016


Bali Nine duo remembered on anniversary

Australian artist Ben Quilty has paid tribute to his friend and student, Myuran Sukumaran, on the one-year anniversary of the Bali Nine ringleader's execution.

Sukumaran, 34, and fellow convicted drug smuggler, Andrew Chan, 31, were executed by firing squad on Indonesia's Nusakambangan island on April 29, 2015.

The pair spent a decade in Kerobokan Prison after attempting to smuggle heroin out of Bali in 2005.

Quilty was introduced to Sukumaran in 2012 after the imprisoned man expressed a desire to paint.

Sukumaran's paintings, including one of the Indonesian flag dripping with blood and a self-portrait with a gaping hole where his heart should be, became a haunting reflection of their final days on death row.

Quilty posted a 166-word tribute and a photo of the self-portraits to Facebook on Friday.

"Rest in peace Myu, with a brush in your hand my friend," the post reads.

"One year today. Seems a little like it was all just a really bad dream, like when you're a kid with a temperature and the nightmares rollick through your tiny brain."

Chan's family attended a Hillsong chapel in Sydney's northwest for the anniversary on Friday, while Sukumaran's private service is expected to be held on Saturday at the nearby DaySpring Church in Castle Hill.

Chan's brother Michael previously said the family had been struggling ahead of the anniversary.

"(It) has been a roller coaster ride for the family to come to terms with the loss," he told Reprieve Australia, an organisation fighting the death penalty.

"There has not been a day that has gone by that he is not in our thoughts. Countries need to look at ways to rehabilitate prisoners instead of executing them."

Febyanti Herewila, who married Chan two days ahead of his execution, told Reprieve his legacy to abolish the death penalty will continue.

A spokeswoman from Quilty's studio told AAP they are planning to exhibit Sukumaran's work in western Sydney early next year, followed by a national tour.

"Next year you will prove again to the world the outcome of rehabilitation, the profound importance of forgiveness and compassion and most importantly of all, the power of art," Quilty wrote, adding he would be sending Indonesian president Joko Widodo an invitation.

Source: AAP, April 29,  2016


Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran execution anniversary stirs tributes from Kerobokan

Kerobokan prison guard Hermanus Hartanto
Kerobokan prison guard Hermanus Hartanto
A long-term guard at Bali's Kerobokan prison has wept while recounting the life and work of Bali Nine member, Myuran Sukumaran.

Today marks a year to the day since Australians Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed by firing squad for drug trafficking.

Chan and Sukumaran were the ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine group and were convicted of attempting to smuggle more than eight kilograms of heroin into Australia.

At the Bali prison where the pair spent almost a decade, there is a deep sadness on the anniversary.

In 2006 Sukumaran approached prison guard Hermanus Hartanto about setting up an art studio at the jail.

Mr Hermanus said over the years that followed, he developed a deep friendship with Sukumaran.

Through tears he spoke to the ABC about the loss he has felt since the Australian was executed.

"I feel so disappointed because he couldn't get remission," Mr Hermanus said.

"He was a role model in here, almost everyone liked him."

"He was like my own son."

Hartanto said he would spend the day remembering and praying for Sukumaran.

"It was hard for me, very difficult because I saw him almost every day for eight years. When he sits down, I would sit beside him," he said.

"And he would always greet me, sometimes if I didn't see him he would call my name."

Sukumaran and Chan were executed on this day last year just after midnight, amid an outpouring of protest on both sides of the debate in Indonesia and at home in Australia.


Source: abc.net.au, April 28, 2016

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Mary Jane Veloso: what happened to the woman who escaped execution in Indonesia?

Mary Jane Veloso
Mary Jane Veloso
Filipina who was temporarily spared at 11th hour, as the Bali Nine pair and six others were killed, remains on death row amid uncertain future

A woman who was temporarily spared death by firing squad last year remains on death row in Indonesia with her life precariously wagered on an slow-moving court case.

Mary Jane Veloso won sympathy in her home country of the Philippines, as well as within Indonesia, after she said she was duped into smuggling drugs. And in a shock turnaround, Indonesian president Joko Widodo – known as Jokowi – delayed her killing with a temporary reprieve just hours before she was due to be executed in April 2015.

Indonesia shot dead eight others that night, including two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who fought a years-long campaign for clemency and were part of the Bali Nine heroin-smuggling ring. Four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian were also killed.

Sparing the domestic worker and mother-of-two was unexpected and several Filipino newspapers wrongly reported on their front pages the next day that she had been killed. The Philippine Daily Inquirer ran the headline: “Death came before Dawn.”

But in the year that has passed, the outburst of joy and relief has given way to a lengthy human trafficking trial in the Philippines and no guarantees that Veloso will be taken off death row even if she can prove she was tricked.

Migrante International, a group that promotes the rights of overseas Filipino workers, says Veloso’s life depends of the speedy trial and conviction of her accused traffickers, Maria Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao.

But the group complains that the defence has employed delaying tactics by filing motion after motion to keep the case in the early stages of legal proceedings.

“Mary Jane is still facing the threat of execution,” Migrante International vice-chair Rina Anastacio told the Guardian. “Unfortunately the trial is going very slowly.”

Hours before Veloso was due to be killed last year, Sergio handed herself in to police in Manila, and the Philippines president, Benigno Aquino, made an appeal to his Indonesian counterpart on the basis that Veloso would be needed as a witness in the case against her alleged recruiter.

Key to the last-minute reprieve was that the Philippines invoked a regional treaty (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations mutual legal assistance treaty, or Asean MLAT) signed to fight transnational crimes in south-east Asia, which obliges Indonesia to help provide Veloso as a witness to the human trafficking court case.

Filipino officials have travelled to Indonesia to discuss the case that they hope can save her life.

Activists fear that Veloso, who has already been convicted in an Indonesian court, could yet be executed if the trial is overly delayed, as she is being kept alive only to give testimony. Her supporters want the Indonesian government to allow Veloso to fly home so she can testify in person in court.

They hope a swift conviction in the Philippines will show that Veloso was a pawn and might persuade Indonesia to spare her life.

The plan is far from certain. Indonesian officials suggest executions could restart again this year after a short hiatus, and the attorney general said in January the country was “ready” to execute Veloso.

Attorney general Prasetyo told Rappler: “We will look at the verdict, perhaps the verdict can be new evidence to appeal for clemency from the president. But surely Mary Jane will not be free from punishment. The fact is that she smuggled drugs to Indonesia.”

Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer and political analyst at Indonesia’s Universitas Jenderal Achmad Yan, said Veloso’s story resonated with Indonesians who, like Filipinos, have a large emigrant population, some of whom are exploited. “Lots of people here in Indonesia were against her execution because her story was so close to home … it’s not unlike Indonesians in the Middle East.”


Source: The Guardian, Oliver Holmes, April 28, 2016

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Jokowi, Be Not Proud



Remembering Andrew and Myuran
and all the others

29 April 2015 - 29 April 2016


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Thursday, April 28, 2016

In Texas, Death Row Inmates Through the Eyes of a New York Artist

Peter Charlap
Peter Charlap
A supermax prison isn’t the best place to sit for a portrait, but Peter Charlap’s subjects have no other choice.

CHRIS YOUNG, A DEATH ROW INMATE at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, is an avid chess player who can manage multiple games at once without using a board, just by calling out the moves to prisoners in neighboring cells.

Will Speer, another inmate, converted to Judaism in prison and worked tirelessly to get officials to let him wear the Star of David on a chain.

Eugene Broxton, a third inmate, became skilled in the art of origami, sending his creations to people all over the world until the mail room guards began unfolding them before they were sent out, leaving their recipients scratching their heads at flat sheets of colorful paper lined with traces of tiny folds.

“Unless you know how to do it, you can’t fold it back,” says one of those recipients, Peter Charlap, sighing. “So he stopped doing it.”

Over the past few years, Charlap has traveled to Texas to complete a series of five portraits of men on death row at the Polunsky Unit, a supermax prison that houses all of Texas’s male death row inmates—more than 250 of them, each kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day—among its population of several thousand.

An artist and fine arts professor at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, Charlap lives in a state that ruled the death penalty unconstitutional more than a decade ago. To him, Texas is no doubt a bit of a foreign country. But it’s one where, today, he has friends.

Charlap began the first portrait in the series, of Young, in 2010. It took months to get on the prisoner’s visitor list. Inmates are allowed two special four-hour visits per month, speaking through phones across a layer of thick glass. Security doesn’t allow cameras, or even pencils or paper, so Charlap began the sketches of Young back at his hotel room, from memory.

“The first time I went there I remember thinking, how am I going to talk to this person I don’t know for four hours?” Charlap says. But to his surprise, the time flew by. “One of the things that Chris said the first day was, ‘Ask me anything; there are no boundaries.’”


Source: Houstonia, Roxanna Asgarian, April 28, 2016

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6x9: A virtual experience of solitary confinement

The Guardian's virtual reality video sends you to solitary. Could you handle it for a day? A decade?

What’s it like to spend 23 hours a day in a cell measuring 6x9 feet for days, weeks, months or even years? 

6x9 is the Guardian's first virtual reality experience, which places you inside a US solitary confinement prison cell and tells the story of the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation.

We've created a mobile app allowing you to fully experience VR on your own, with or without cardboard viewer. If you don't have a smartphone scroll down to watch the 360° video.


Human beings quietly design these dungeons where other human beings go insane.

"Un camp de concentration se construit comme un stade ou un grand hôtel, avec des entrepreneurs, des devis, de la concurrence, sans doute des pots-de-vin.
Pas de style imposé, c’est laissé à l’imagination : style alpin, style garage, style japonais, sans style. Les architectes inventent calmement ces porches destinés à n’être franchis qu’une seule fois.
Pendant ce temps, Burger, ouvrier allemand, Sterne, étudiant juif d'Amsterdam, Schmulszki, marchand de Cracovie, Annette, lycéenne de Bordeaux, vivent leur vie de tous les jours sans savoir qu’ils ont déjà, à mille kilomètres de chez eux, une place assignée.
Et le jour vient où leurs blocks sont terminés, où il ne manque plus qu’eux."
-- Jean Cayrol, Nuit et Brouillard
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Few on Louisiana's death row are ever executed, largely owing to reversals, analysis finds

Louisiana death row
Louisiana death row
Louisiana, which has led the nation in homicide rates every year since 1989, sentences plenty of murderers to death but rarely executes them, in part because a huge proportion of death verdicts are reversed on appeal, according to a new study slated to come out Thursday.

The report, to be published in the Southern University Law Center's "Journal of Race, Gender and Poverty," examined each of the 241 death sentences handed down in Louisiana over the past 30 years.

Just 28 of those sentenced to death - less than 12 % - have been executed. Meanwhile, 127 of the death verdicts, more than 1/2 the total, have been reversed, meaning that either a new trial was ordered or the death sentence was rescinded. That number includes 9 exonerations.

The "extremely high" reversal rates in parishes throughout Louisiana, combined with what political science professor Frank Baumgartner and statistician Tim Lyman call "shocking" racial discrepancies, make the state's experience with capital punishment "deeply dysfunctional," the authors said.

The 2 published an earlier article based on their data that focused on racial disparities in the application of the death penalty. They found that those who killed white people were more than 10 times as likely as those who killed black people to be executed.

Their latest article homes in on the modern era of the death penalty, starting after the 1976 Gregg v. Georgia decision, in which the Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of capital punishment.

The trends the authors identified also are seen in other death penalty states, but they are exaggerated in Louisiana. For instance, Louisiana's rate of executions is 4.5 % points lower than the national average, and the rate of reversals is almost 10 % points higher.

"People don't realize, nationally speaking, that after you're handed down a death sentence, your odds of being executed are 13 %," said Baumgartner, a professor at the University of North Carolina who has been studying the death penalty for 15 years. "The numbers we see in Louisiana are even worse than nationally, which is amazing."

To have a death sentence reversed, serious flaws in a trial must be demonstrated, such as withheld evidence or improper jury instructions.

The reasons for the reversals run the gamut, according to the authors, with errors evident in pretrial, guilt and penalty phases. Prosecutors, defense counsel and even judges have been responsible for the errors, the study adds.

In recent years, the death penalty has inspired intermittent debated in Louisiana, particularly since the exoneration of Glenn Ford, a man who spent nearly 30 years on death row before the state determined he was innocent in 2014.

At the time of his release, he was the nation's longest-serving death row exoneree, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

But while some states, like Texas and Oklahoma, continue a robust business in executions, Louisiana hasn't executed a convict since 2010. Prosecutors around the state have been increasingly reluctant to seek the ultimate penalty in recent years - in part, perhaps, for pragmatic reasons.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, there have been 32 death sentences in the "modern era" of the death penalty but only 8 since 2000, according to Lyman. In Jefferson Parish, there have been 31 death sentences but just 5 since 2000.

And in Orleans Parish, although there have been 37 death sentences since capital punishment was reinstated, only 1 death sentence has been handed down since 1997, and it eventually was thrown out, Lyman said.

Data suggest most district attorneys are now seeking death only in the most heinous of crimes.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, for example, there have been only 2 death penalty trials in the past 8 years, according to District Attorney Hillar Moore III. The Jefferson Parish district attorney has filed only 1 1st-degree murder indictment - a prerequisite for the death penalty - during the past 10 years, according to a spokesman. And in that case, the defendant pleaded guilty last month in exchange for the state agreeing to not seek the death penalty.

And in New Orleans, there is only 1 active capital murder case, that of Travis Boys, who is accused of killing a police officer.

In all states, death verdicts are harder and more expensive to obtain than life sentences. That's particularly true in Louisiana, which is 1 of 2 states where juries can convict on a 2nd-degree murder charge by a 10-2 vote. The charge carries an automatic life sentence.

Death cases, conversely, require all 12 jurors to agree in both the guilt and penalty phases of trial. For some Louisiana prosecutors, the higher burden of reaching a unanimous verdict in a capital case, and the cost of defending it over decades, has made the death penalty a less attractive option.

A study on the cost of the death penalty in Louisiana is pending. Studies in other states, however, have found that seeking the death penalty over life without parole adds as much as $1 million in prosecution costs alone. And roughly 1/3 of the money Louisiana spends on public defenders goes to private firms representing capital murder defendants, one reason the state's indigent defense system is strapped for cash.

In an interview, Baumgartner said it would be easier for states to simply eliminate death penalty as an option, as it also would eliminate costly appeals - especially because a death sentence is statistically likely to be overturned anyway.

"We have to look the death penalty in the eye and understand how it truly does function," he said. "Not how we wished it functioned but how it really does function. And every time we do that, it really is disturbing."

Source: The Advocate, April 27, 2016

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Indonesia executions one year on: Mary Jane lives but death penalty questions linger

The port at Cilacap, where boats leave for Nusakambangan island.
The port at Cilacap, where boats leave for Nusakambangan island.
It has been one year since Filipina Mary Jane's reprieve and the execution of 8 others. What's the situation now?

The anguished cry of a sister about to lose her brother, dust clouds kicked up by dozens of reporters and police, and the heavy sensation of dread.

These stand out in my memory of April 28 last year, the day before Indonesia executed 8 people on Nusakambangan, Central Java, for drug offenses.

Incongruous in the chaos were two little boys, Mark Darren and Mark Daniel, the sons of Filipina Mary Jane Veloso.

Aged 6 and 12, they were told to say their last goodbyes to their mother before she “went to heaven.”

That night, Veloso, 30, was taken from her cell and was walking to the firing squad when she was pulled back, granted a temporary reprieve.

In a dramatic turn, the woman who allegedly recruited Veloso had surrendered to police. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words) The single mother had always argued she was duped into carrying 2.6kg of heroin into Indonesia in 2009.

Shots heard after midnight signaled the firing squad had done its grim work. But at Cilacap port, we were in the dark about Veloso's fate.

I sent a text message to her attorney. I've heard a rumor. Is Mary Jane alive?

Edre Olalia's ecstatic reply came: “YES!!!!!"

Recruiters on trial

Maria Cristina Sergio and Julis Lacanilao, the couple accused of setting up Veloso, are finally on trial after protracted pre-trial legal arguments.

Olalia says this case and others expose the great danger that innocent people will be executed because of errors.

Criminal justice systems everywhere are imperfect, he says. They are complicated, confusing and corruptible.

“In countries that impose the death penalty, we know as a fact there can be mistakes,” he says.

“We know also the system is very prejudiced against those who have no power, who have no influence or wealth."

Mary Jane Veloso's relatives, including her two sons, on their way to visit her in her Nusakambangan death row cell on April 25, 2015
Mary Jane Veloso's relatives, including her two sons, on their way to visit
her in her Nusakambangan death row cell on April 25, 2015
Veloso will have the chance to tell her story at this trial. At her 2010 trial in Indonesia, she was not provided a qualified translator.

Discussions between Manila and Jakarta continue to determine how her testimony will be presented.

The death penalty was abolished in the Philippines in 1986, reintroduced in 1993 and suspended again in 2006.

Two presidential candidates - Rodrigo Duterte and Grace Poe, are in favor of returning capital punishment.

Olalia says this is a populist stance that ignores policy approaches that actually work.

However, looking at the root causes of criminality and strengthening investigative bodies don’t grab headlines.

“Crimes must be punished and people must be held accountable, but we will not solve a problem by presenting another problem,” he says.

Indonesia’s stance

Indonesia argues its death penalty is not only for those who commit the most serious crimes - drug trafficking, terrorism, murder and treason - but as a warning to future perpetrators.

However there’s still no evidence the death penalty deters drug crime.

Lawyer Ricky Gunawan has just returned from the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs, where he gave an impassioned plea to end the death penalty.

"We are going nowhere with drug policy," he says. "Indonesia is still using the old punitive measures which have not resulted in any positive difference."

Gunawan, of LBH Masyarakat (Community Legal Aid Institute), says the annual report of the BNN (National Narcotics Agency) itself shows the continued rise of drug crimes.

But instead of changing tactics, BNN chief Budi Waseso wants more regular executions.

On April 7, 10 foreign drug convicts' names were reported in the media, supposedly the next candidates for executions.

Attorney General HM Prasetyo was quoted as saying he was only waiting for their final legal appeals and better weather.

His spokesman later told Australia’s ABC he was only joking.

Eventually, Indonesia's lawmakers will debate a revision of the criminal code that would see a death sentence commuted to life or 20 years' jail after 10 years of good behavior.

"This would be good because we know many death row prisoners, after 10 years' imprisonment, show change," Gunawan says.

"It's difficult, politically, to see Indonesia abolishing the death penalty now, but this would be a good compromise."

Chan and Sukumaran

The story of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran rallied the support of many Australians.

Chan had transformed from Bali Nine drug smuggler to pastor within 10 years, while Sukumaran dedicated himself to becoming an accomplished painter.

After legal, diplomatic and community appeals failed to save the reformed pair from execution, many questioned whether Australia shouldn’t be a more consistent and louder voice against the death penalty worldwide.

A parliamentary committee has been considering how Australia's government can improve its advocacy.

Julian McMahon, who was a lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran, now serves as president for Reprieve Australia.

“The Chan-Sukumaran case asked not only the public, but also the Australian parliament, to take a firm position on the death penalty,” he says.

“Opposition to more executions anywhere is the only acceptable position for a government.

“In my opinion, they’re doing it well now. Having said that, there’s obviously a lot more to be done.

“A number of nations who are great friends of Australia have taken backward steps in recent weeks."

Not only is Indonesia openly discussing more executions, but Japan and Malaysia have conducted secretive executions.

Death penalty

Malaysia is moving towards reform of its mandatory death penalty for some drug crimes, with proposed amendments anticipated to be introduced to parliament in May.

But last month it sent 3 men to the gallows, giving their families only two days’ notice the decade-old sentence for murder would be carried out.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian man is set to be hung in Singapore, after his final appeal was quashed.

Kho Jabing was sentenced to death in 2010 for killing a Chinese worker in a robbery.

There have been talks between the two governments concerning the 31-year-old, but Malaysia finds itself in the difficult position of asking for its citizen to be spared death while its own justice system executes.

Amnesty International reports 2015 was the worst year in a quarter of a century for the death penalty.

At least 1,634 people were put to death last year, 90 percent of them in three countries: Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The figures exclude China, where it’s believed thousands are executed each year in secret.

Amnesty International Malaysia's Shamini Darshni says the rational arguments against the death penalty endure.

"The death penalty is a very emotional argument but we have so much research to show it doesn't actually prevent crimes, prevent future crimes or help the crime rate, and it robs a prisoner of the chance for rehabilitation," she says. – Rappler.com

Source: Rappler, Gabrielle Dunlevy, April 28, 2016

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Pakistan: Two death row convicts hanged in Haripur

HARIPUR (Dunya News) - Two death row convicts were hanged in the Central Jail Haripur on early Thursday morning, Dunya News reported.

The dead bodies of the prisoners were handed over to their families after the execution.

According to details, death row convict Ali Raza was hanged for killing a man in 2004 while prisoner Farhad was executed for murdering a man in 1997.

Six-year moratorium on death penalty was lifted on December 17, 2014 for those convicted for terrorism a day after the deadly attack on Army Public School in Peshawar that left 150 persons including mostly children dead.

There are more than 8,000 prisoners on death row in the country.

Source: dunyanews.tv, April 28, 2016

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Seventeen Australians on or facing death row a year after Bali Nine deaths

Figures show Australian federal police provided information for ‘potential death penalty situations’ 74 times in past year

In the year since Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran faced an Indonesian firing squad, their wishes appear to have been posthumously granted, at least in part – no more Australians have been added to the list of those potentially facing the death penalty.

But of at least 17 Australians still thought to be at risk of execution overseas, life on death row has become a grim reality for at least one man and the fate of another could be known within days.

On the anniversary of the execution of Chan and Sukumaran over a thwarted plan to smuggle heroin out of Bali, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not respond when asked how many Australians in jail could face capital punishment.

It is understood there has been no change to the number Dfat confirmed last year, with groups including the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties not aware of any new cases.

But, in the past year, the prospect of execution drew closer for a former Adelaide jockey given a suspended death sentence in China for smuggling ice.

And a verdict on another ice smuggling case in China, which will decide the fate of a young dual Australian and New Zealand citizen, could be just days away.

The two men are among as many as 11 Australians thought to be held over drug prosecutions in a single southern Chinese city, Guangzhou. The possibility of execution by lethal injection or firing squad looms for all of them.

In Malaysia, an Australian woman could be hanged if found guilty of drug smuggling. In Vietnam, a Sydney man faces the prospect of secret execution by lethal injection of locally manufactured chemicals of “unknown efficacy”, according to Amnesty International.

While the number of Australians on or facing death row held steady, the level of involvement by the Australian federal police in transnational investigations that could result in death penalties declined – but was still significant.

Figures provided to Guardian Australia show the AFP provided information for investigations known as “potential death penalty situations” 74 times in the past year.

Guardian Australia was told that information provided by the AFP could include criminal history or lack thereof in Australia, which may be used by the accused to bolster their defences. The AFP has faced prolonged criticism for its role in tipping off Indonesian authorities about the plot of the “Bali Nine”, which led to Chan and Sukumaran’s executions.

A Guangzhou customs official in 2014 cited growing cooperation with the AFP in recent years after a surge in drug arrests in the city involving Australians.

Click here to read the full article

Source; The Guardian, Joshua Robertson, April 282016

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Georgia executes Daniel Lucas

Daniel Anthony Lucas
Daniel Anthony Lucas
A man sent to death row for killing two children and their father in 1998 was executed in Georgia on Wednesday.

Daniel Anthony Lucas, 37, confessed to fatally shooting Bryan Moss, 11, near Macon on April 23, 1998, after the boy arrived home from school and found Lucas and Brandon Rhode burglarizing the house, according to court records.

Rhode next shot Bryan's sister, Kristin Moss, 15, and their father, Steven Moss, 37, when they arrived home, and Lucas then "shot all three victims again to make sure they were dead," Lucas' attorneys wrote in court papers.

Georgia executed Rhode for the murders in 2010. Lucas, who was convicted of the crimes in 1999, was put to death by lethal injection at 9:54 p.m. EDT at the state prison in Jackson. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Daniel Lucas’ request for a stay shortly before the execution. The court's response came about 2 hours after the originally scheduled 7 p.m. execution time had passed.

Earlier, the Superior Court of Butts County, followed by the Georgia Supreme Court, said no to halting Lucas' lethal injection.

The Georgia Supreme Court even expressed its displeasure that Lucas' lawyers filed their appeal a mere 31 hours before the slated hour of death:

"This Court notes that this successive habeas corpus proceeding was not initiated until the day before Lucas's scheduled execution. Despite this late filing, the Court has fully considered Lucas's application on the merits," the judges wrote.

Lucas becomes the fifth person executed this year in Georgia and the 13th in the United States, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center.

Lucas' lawyers described him as a changed man in a petition asking the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute the inmate's sentence to life with parole, but the board denied the request late Tuesday.

"For the past 18 years he has devoted himself to learning and self improvement," the petition said. "He has been a model inmate. He has found faith."

After enduring an abusive childhood, Lucas became a "desperate alcoholic and addict, and he committed a horrible crime," his lawyers said, but is "not beyond redemption."

Lucas requested a last meal of meat pizza, steak and cheese calzone, stuffed Portobello mushroom, chef salad with ranch dressing and honey mustard dressing, and orange juice, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Lucas becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia and the 65th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Lucas becomes the 13th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1435th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. The next scheduled execution in the USA is set in Missouri for May 11. 

Source: Reuters, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Rick Halperin, Twitter, April 27, 2016


What Daniel Lucas' Execution Tells Us About Childhood Trauma And The Death Penalty

"Almost all my [Death Penalty] clients should have been taken out of their
homes when they were children. They weren't. Nobody had any interest in
them, until as a result of nobody's interest in them, they became menaces,
at which point society did become interested, if only to kill them."
-- David R. Dow, Texas Public Defender Service attorney
Less than two weeks after executing Kenneth Fults, Georgia is getting ready to lethally inject its fifth death row inmate this year.

Daniel Anthony Lucas is scheduled to die Wednesday night for the fatal shootings of two children. He doesn’t dispute that he committed the crime. But his story demonstrates how early childhood trauma plays out on death rows across the country today. A substantial number of executions involve people who grew up around substance abuse or grew up in environments where violence and neglect was the norm.

Lucas was 19 years old when he killed three people during a 1998 house burglary. He first targeted an 11-year-old son who saw Lucas from outside the house and tried to stop him with a baseball bat. Lucas shot him several times. When the teenage sister walked into the house later on, Lucas and co-conspirator Brandon Joseph Rhode tied her to a chair and Lucas shot her point blank. Rhodes killed the father when he arrived at the house.

Lucas was arrested days later, waived his Miranda rights, and confessed. After that, Lucas and his defense team tried and failed to link the substance abuse to his traumatic upbringing.

In court, Lucas’ attorneys hinged their defense on drugs — Xanax and Darvocet — and alcohol in his system at the time of the murders. According to a psychiatrist who testified on Lucas’ behalf, the killings likely occurred because his judgment was impaired at the time. He explained that Lucas’ “recollection or reasoning, his impulsivity, everything was eroded, almost destroyed.”

Attorneys tried to make the case that Lucas’ substance abuse problem was the result of lasting childhood trauma. Family members testified that he was raised in a turbulent environment, and watched his parents use crack cocaine, smoke marijuana, and “[drink] excessively” when he was a small boy. The family lived in “abject poverty.” Often, he had to protect his sister when their parents were fighting. And there was sexual abuse in the household, although it is unclear who the victims were.

The jury was unconvinced, and state and federal appeals courts rejected the notion that Lucas was too intoxicated to know what he was doing.

But Lucas’ story is shared by many people sentenced to capital punishment throughout the country. They weren’t born hardened, brutal criminals, but made life choices colored by profound trauma.

“It’s…clear that not all criminality is the product of childhood abuse,” Frank Ochberg, a psychiatrist and trauma expert, told the publication. “But these early adverse situations reduce the resilience of human biology and they change us in very fundamental ways. Our brains are altered. And that’s what this research is bearing out.”

"Through their upbringing, children learn how to treat the people around them," Ochberg explained. "If they are abused as kids, many normalize violence and resort to violence in the future."

Click here to read the full article

Source: ThinkProgress, Carimah Townes, April 27, 2016. The original title of this article is: "What The Next Execution Tells Us About Childhood Trauma And The Death Penalty"

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A year after the Bali Nine executions, Indonesia prepares firing squads again

Indonesian police officers
Deaths of eight prisoners, including two Australians, prompted a huge outcry – and a pause in executions. But now foreigners on death row fear their own sentences could be just weeks away

There’s chatter that it’s on.

Talk that the death squad is at the ready; that a new, bigger execution ground is in the making. Officials say it could be just weeks away.

And after the circus last year, the security minister Luhut Panjaitan hopes there will be less “drama” this time around.

One year after the international uproar and the diplomatic fallout over the execution of eight drug traffickers – including two Australian men, Bali Nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – it appears more executions could be on Indonesia’s horizon this year. Among the foreigners on death row in Indonesia are two Britons, convicted drug smugglers Lindsay Sandiford and Gareth Cashmore.

“I still don’t want to believe it,” says lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, who this time last year was fighting to save the lives of Chan and Sukumaran. “Yes, there will probably be a statement, but in the end I don’t think there will be any executions. I refuse to believe it.”

After 14 prisoners were executed at dawn in two separate rounds in early 2015, a third round has been on hold for the past year, ostensibly for economic reasons, but perhaps, in part, for political ones, too.

This month, even as Indonesia was being booed at the United Nations for reiterating its support for the death penalty for drug offenders – a punitive action that runs counter to international law – the attorney general Muhammad Prasetyo indicated that another round would go ahead.

When questioned on the matter by German chancellor Angela Merkel on a recent visit to Berlin, Indonesian president Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, defended capital punishment as a justified approach to the country’s “drug emergency”.

There is nothing definitive yet, no date, and no official list of the next prisoners to face the firing squad: the Indonesian government is keeping its cards close to the chest. But some are still operating on the assumption that it is probably just a matter of time.

“The last information we received is that the attorney general has asked the parliament for the budget for the third round,” says Putri Kanesia, from the Jakarta-based human rights organisation Kontras.


Source: The Guardian, Kate Lamb, April 28, 2016

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Arizona Faces Drug-Expiration Deadline for Executions

Arizona's supply of a crucial lethal injection drug is set to expire as a federal judge decides the fate of a lawsuit that has stopped all executions in the state.

State officials currently can't seek death warrants until a lawsuit against the way it carries out executions is resolved, meaning the state's supply of the sedative midazolam will expire without being used. The state's known supply of midazolam expires on May 31. But law requires Arizona to wait 35 days after obtaining a death warrant before carrying out an execution, meaning it would have had to get the warrant by Tuesday.

A federal judge is deciding on a request by the state to dismiss the lawsuit.

It's unclear whether the state has obtained more midazolam. The state Department of Corrections didn't respond to several calls and emails seeking comment.

The lawsuit was originally filed by a group of death row inmates who said their First Amendment rights were violated by the state's refusal to divulge any information about its supply of lethal drugs and how it gets them. The suit also challenges the use of midazolam, a sedative used in the nearly two-hour death of convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood in July 2014. Wood, convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her father, was administered with 15 doses of midazolam and hydromorphone, a pain killer, before dying.

A federal judge in Phoenix is deliberating whether to grant a state motion to dismiss the case. U.S. District Judge Neil Wake heard oral arguments on April 7 and hasn't yet issued a ruling.

Attorneys for the state argue that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of midazolam in in lethal injections and the state abides by national standards to avoid mishaps. Attorneys told Wake earlier this year that its supply of midazolam will expire on May 31 and that it wasn't able to get more.

The sedative is part of the state's execution protocol, which includes the drugs vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Arizona has also tried to obtain sodium thiopental, an anesthetic that has been used in past executions in combination with drugs that paralyze the muscles and stop the heart. The anesthetic currently has no legal uses in the U.S. 

Last summer, the FDA seized a shipment of the drug that Arizona paid $27,000 for. Arizona and other death penalty states have struggled to obtain lethal injection drugs after European companies refused to continue supplying them several years ago.

Wood's attorney, Dale Baich, has said his client's execution was botched and that the state shouldn't use midazolam in its executions. Baich declined to comment on the expiration of the known supply.

Source: Associated Press, April 27, 2016

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