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“River of Fire”: In New Memoir, Sister Helen Prejean Reflects on Decades of Fighting Executions

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The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to resume the death penalty after a more than 15-year moratorium. This week Attorney General William Barr proposed fast-tracking executions in mass murder cases, and last month ordered the execution of five death row prisoners beginning in December. The federal government has executed just three people since 1963 — the last being in 2003. The death penalty is widely condemned by national governments, international bodies and human rights groups across the world. Experts say capital punishment does not help deter homicides and that errors and racism in the criminal justice system extend to those sentenced to death. We speak with Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known anti-death-penalty activist who began her prison ministry over 30 years ago. She is the author of the best-selling book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” which was turned into an Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. …

Will North Carolina's Supreme Court Allow Racism to Remain a Persistent Factor in its Death Penalty?

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In 2009, North Carolina passed the Racial Justice Act (RJA), which allowed defendants to strike the death penalty from their cases if they could show that racial discrimination was a factor in their prosecution. 
The law came as a response to a series of exonerations of Black people who were falsely convicted of crimes they did not commit by all-white or nearly all-white juries. 
The legislature took a bold step to address was what suspected to be deeply troubling evidence of racism infecting the death penalty—but no one knew for sure what evidence uncovered by the RJA would find.
In 2010, people on death row began filing RJA claims. Four had hearings, and the evidence uncovered was indeed stark, troubling, and clearly pointed to the systemic ways that racism infects capital cases in North Carolina. The four petitioners had death sentences reversed and were resentenced to life without parole (LWOP).
But in 2013, the law was repealed by the same new legislature that targeted Black vot…

Iran: Man Hanged over Drug Charges in Shirvan, Man Hanged in Sari

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Iran Human Rights (IHR); August 24, 2019: A prisoner was hanged over drug-related charges at the central prison of Shirvan city, North Khorasan province Wednesday.
According to IHR sources, on the morning of Wednesday, August 21, a man was hanged at Shirvan Central Prison. His name was Morad Shahsavari.
“Morad Shahsavari was arrested for drug offenses. He had been in jail for three years and eight months before his execution,” a well-informed source told IHR. 
At least 110 people were executed in Iran in the first half of 2019; nine of them sentenced to death for drug offenses. 
Man Hanged in Sari City
Iran Human Rights (IHR); August 24, 2019: A prisoner was hanged for murder at a prison in the Iranian northern city of Sari Wednesday.
According to HRANA, on the morning of Wednesday, August 21, a man was hanged at a prison in the Iranian northern city of Sari, Mazandaran province. 
The man was identified as Abolhassan Ghorbani, 38. Abolhassan killed a man during a fight four years ago…

Judge Sets Execution Date For 'Texas 7' Buddhist Inmate Patrick Murphy

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A Dallas County judge has set the new execution date for 'Texas 7' inmate Patrick Murphy.
The judge set the new date for November 13th.
RELATED Texas: On Eve of Execution, Inmate Fights for Buddhist Priest
Murphy was minutes away from execution in March when the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halted things because the Texas Department of Criminal Justice wouldn't allow a Buddhist chaplain in the execution chamber.
RELATED | Buddhist Inmate Ready To Die As Court Considers Limits Of Religious Freedom In Texas
RELATED | Texas bans clergy from executions after Supreme Court ruling
Jeremy Desel with TDCJ says they fixed the problem by banning all spiritual leaders from the execution chamber.
RELATED Last-minute execution decisions expose wide and bitter rift at Supreme Court
Murphy and Randy Halprin are the last of the seven gang members who broke out of a south Texas prison and killed Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins in December 2000 at an Oshman's sporting goods stor…

Sotomayor, SCOTUS Condone Execution in ‘Kafkaesque’ System

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor last night called part of Florida’s capital punishment system “Kafkaesque,” but she still joined her U.S. Supreme Court colleagues in allowing the Sunshine State to carry out an execution under that system.
The justice said she’d be up for reviewing Florida’s system in a future case, but that Gary Ray Bowles’ appeal wasn’t the right one in which to take on the state’s regime that blocks certain defendants from pressing intellectual disability claims.
The high court’s rejection allowed the state to execute the 57-year-old serial killer, who preyed on gay men on the East Coast in the 1990s, earning the moniker the “I-95 Killer.”
The Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that the Constitution bars executing the intellectually disabled. In 2014, the justices ruled that Florida’s strict IQ cutoff ran afoul of the 2002 ruling. Since then, Florida’s supreme court has said the 2014 ruling, Hall v. Florida, applies retroactively, but it also has blocked defendants like Bowles fr…

El regreso de la pena de muerte federal en Estados Unidos

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El 25 de julio, en un inesperado anuncio, el fiscal general de Estados Unidos, William Barr, afirmó que el gobierno federal iba a reanudar las ejecuciones, con cinco de ellas programadas para los próximos meses. 
Esto anula una moratoria efectiva sobre la pena de muerte a nivel federal que ha durado más de 16 años. El fiscal general Barr dijo en su anuncio: “El castigo debe ser rápido”. 
Apenas una semana después, el presidente Donald Trump aprovechó los asesinatos en masa en El Paso, Texas y Dayton, Ohio, para exigir no una prohibición de las armas de asalto, sino más ejecuciones: “Hoy también voy a ordenarle al Departamento de Justicia que proponga legislación que asegure que aquellos que cometan crímenes de odio y asesinatos en masa enfrenten la pena de muerte, y que este castigo sea aplicado de forma rápida, decisiva y sin años de retraso innecesario”. 
¿Retraso innecesario? Desde 1973, más de 160 personas injustamente condenadas han sido liberadas del pabellón de la muerte.
De h…

Department Of Justice Action Prompts Arizona To Renew Pursuit Of Death Penalty Drugs

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Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich has witnessed 11 executions by lethal injection.
“It’s ... eerily silent,” he said recalling the experience. “In the witness room, the witnesses don’t speak. There is a low hum of the air-conditioning unit and occasionally a voice coming over the speakers announcing that 'the prisoner is sedated' or that 'the execution is complete.'"
But in 2014, during the execution of his client Joseph Wood at the state prison in Florence, something went wrong. The announcements kept repeating. "The prisoner remains sedated. The prisoner remains sedated." But Wood wasn’t acting sedated.
“We could hear the sound that was coming from Mr. Wood," Baich said, "and it sounded like, like a freight train."
Wood’s mouth was open. He was bucking against the restraints and making a sucking, gulping, gasping sound. It went on for two hours before the announcement finally came that the execution was complete.
The dramatic …

Serial Killer Arrested by Santa Monica Police Faces Death Penalty

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A jury on Thursday found convicted serial killer Michael Gargiulo, known as the "Hollywood Ripper," was sane when he murdered 2 women and attempted to murder a third in her Santa Monica apartment.
The 6-man, 6-woman panel deliberated for several hours before making the finding against Gargiulo, 43, who now faces the death penalty.
Gargiulo was found guilty last week of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder "with the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and lying in wait, making him eligible for the death penalty," prosecutors said Thursday.
He also was convicted of 1 count of "willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder and attempted escape ("Jury Finds Former Santa Monica Resident Guilty of Double Murder," August 16, 2019).
The penalty phase of the trial is expected to begin September 9, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney.
Prosecutors said Gargiulo, a former handyman and aspiring actor, committed a series "…

Australian convicted of cooking up his own cocaine could now face death penalty in Bali

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Ryan Williams was already jailed for 5 years. But a bizarre legal loophole could see him face the death penalty.
An Australian man sentenced to a shock 5 years in a Bali jail for cooking up his own cocaine and who decided not to appeal and risk the death penalty has now been told the death penalty is back on the table.
Bizarrely it comes as Sydney man Ryan Scott Williams finds himself with an unlikely ally wielding a double-edged sword.
His accusers, whose actions in appealing for a lighter sentence for him have again opened the door to the very thing he hoped to avoid by not appealing himself - the death penalty or a higher sentence.
This is because, on appeals, it is open to the High Court to increase sentences, not just decrease them.
Prosecutors have decided to lodge an appeal against the 5-year sentence handed down to Williams on the basis, they argue, that the law used against him was not appropriate to his crime.
The 45-year-old was convicted in Denpasar District Court earlier …

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg treated for new pancreatic cancer

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was recently treated for a "localized malignant tumor" on her pancreas, a court spokesperson said Friday.
"The tumor was treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body," spokesperson Kathy Arberg said.
The news, coming during the court's summer recess, is the second cancer scare for Ginsburg in the last year. In December 2018, doctors removed part of her lung after discovering cancerous nodules. Recovery from the surgery caused Ginsburg to miss public court sessions for the first time in her 25 years on the bench.
"When they say 'localized,' it means cancer has not spread outside the pancreas. That in itself is usually a good sign," said ABC News medical contributor Dr. Nithin Paul on "The Briefing Room" on ABC News Live. "When it’s a localized cancer, the American Cancer Society says there’s about a 34% chance of surviving to at least 5 years – but that’…

Florida: The last words of the serial killer who was executed for murdering six gay men

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The last words of serial killer Gary Ray Bowles have been revealed in a statement read after his execution.
Bowles, 57, was put to death at a prison in Florida on Thursday, August 22, 23 years after he was sentenced to death over the murders of six gay men.
He opted to eat cheeseburgers, french fries and bacon as his last meal.
In his final words, read to reporters after his death, Bowles attempted to apologise to his mother.
‘You don’t wake up and decide to become a serial killer.’
He said: “I’m sorry for all the pain and suffering I have caused. I hope my death eases your pain.
“I want to tell my mother that I am also sorry for my actions.
“Having to deal with your son being called a monster is terrible. I’m so very sorry.
“I never wanted this to be my life. You don’t wake up one day and decide to become a serial killer.”
Bowles had not previously expressed remorse for his actions, saying in a 2014 interview with A&E: “It’s not hard to kill somebody… you can kill somebody prett…