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"And you're told it's time to die": A Personal Contribution to the 2021 World Day Against the Death Penalty

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The following text is excerpted from  Death Row Diary , by William Van Poyck. William Van Poyck -- who maintained his innocence -- was executed by the state of Florida on June 12, 2013.  The 58-year-old, convicted of the 1987 murder of Glades Correctional Institution guard Fred Griffis outside a West Palm Beach doctor’s office, offered his views on everything from prison food to movies to the blood lust of politicians who support the death penalty via letters he posted online with the help of his sister.  After his conviction, Van Poyck, with a reform school education, authored three books, one of which won first-place honors in the memoir category in Writer’s Digest 2004 Self-Published Book Awards.  Locked up with what the courts have deemed the worst of the worst, Van Poyck opened the doors to a secret world few can imagine... The following piece is excerpted from William Van Poyck’s dispatches written during the last two years prior to his own execution. "Robert Waterhouse was

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denies clemency for Donald Grant

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An emotional clemency hearing for what was described as a “heinous” crime resulted in the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denying clemency for death-row inmate Donald Grant by a 4-1 vote. Voting to reject Grant’s clemency petition were members Larry Morris, Kelly Doyle, Scott Williams and Richard Smothermon. Board Chairman Adam Luck voted for clemency. “There’s a pattern in death penalty cases that we have seen since we began a couple months ago: severe mental illness, drug abuse, deprived and at times horrific childhood. I believe we will continue to see that,” Doyle said. “The people of Oklahoma have made a choice to maintain the death penalty. I also feel that it is my responsibility to identify those cases that are unusually heinous and cruel. And to me, this is one of those cases.” Grant was convicted of the brutal 2001 murders of Brenda McElyea and Suzette Smith during a robbery at a La Quinta Inn in Del City. McElyea and Smith were both employees of the hotel. They were shot, b

Michigan | 3 dead, 8 injured in Oxford High School shooting; suspect is 15-year-old student

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A 15-year-old Oxford High School sophomore, armed with a semiautomatic handgun, is accused of a shooting at his school Tuesday afternoon, killing three students and injuring seven others and a teacher.  Those killed were: Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Madisyn Baldwin, 17. The incident unfolded in about five minutes and police said the shooter, who was not injured, was arrested after deputies stopped him coming down a hall with a 9mm handgun with seven rounds of live ammunition. Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard late Tuesday said the suspect's father purchased the handgun just four days ago. The sheriff said he would not be identifying the juvenile at this time.. The teen was under suicide watch, County Executive David Coulter said Tuesday night, and Prosecutor Karen McDonald said she planned to issue "appropriate charges quickly" and that the community has her commitment and promise that she "will seek justice." Michael McCabe, the Oakland County u

Florida | Father of Parkland Victim Wants Shooter 'Removed From This Earth the Fastest Way Possible'

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Fred Guttenberg, the father of a Parkland school shooting victim, said he wants to see Nikolas Cruz "removed from this earth the fastest way possible" as the 23-year-old waits for a jury to sentence him early next year. Guttenberg said that result could come "through a death penalty conviction or time in a prison with a general population," he told CNN on Monday. "But he serves no useful purpose, and I'd like to be able to move on from ever thinking of him again." Last month, Cruz pleaded guilty to killing 17 people during a 2018 shooting spree at his former high school in Parkland, Florida, in what became the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history. His guilty plea to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder means 12 jurors will decide whether he gets the death penalty or life in prison without parole. Jury selection is scheduled to begin January 4. Last week, the families of dozens of Parkland shooting victims reached a record $13

Singapore | Appeal postponed for intellectually disabled Malaysian on death row

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KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore’s top court has postponed an appeal hearing challenging the death sentence of a Malaysian man who is believed to be mentally disabled, his lawyer said Tuesday (Nov 30). Defence lawyer M. Ravi said he had requested the hearing scheduled for Tuesday be delayed.  The Court of Appeal has not informed him of a new date, the lawyer added. The court didn't immediately reply to a request for comment from The Associated Press. The hearing was originally scheduled for Nov 10, a day before Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam was to be executed by hanging for trying to smuggle less than 43g (1.5 ounces) of heroin into the country. The appeal was postponed after the defendant was diagnosed with Covid-19. Previous attempts to reduce the 33-year-old Malaysian national's sentence to life in prison or receive a presidential pardon have failed, despite pleas from the international community and rights groups. Death penalty opponents say Nagaenthran’s IQ of 69 was disclosed during

Oklahoma | Eyewitnesses to John Grant's execution give conflicting accounts

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Strapped down to a gurney, the condemned inmate screamed profanities inside the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. The eyewitnesses to the state's first execution in more than six years agree on that point. They also agree convicted murderer John Marion Grant threw up on the gurney Oct. 28. Their descriptions of what else happened during the lethal injection procedure differ sharply. Was it fast and smooth or horrifying? Did the inmate convulse violently, dry heave or simply cough? Did he go unconscious quickly or appear to be still awake minutes into it? Did he stop breathing 45 seconds after getting the first drug or continue to breathe for several minutes? Across the country, Grant's execution is widely seen as Oklahoma's latest death penalty failure because of the media reports. That public perception persisted even after Corrections Department Director Scott Crow called the media accounts embellished and insisted the execution was withou

California | Scott Peterson transferred from death row ahead of resentencing

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Peterson expected to receive life sentence without possibility of parole after state Supreme Court overturned death penalty Scott Peterson, who spent more than 15 years on death row in the 2002 murders of his pregnant wife and unborn son, was transferred from death row, officials confirmed Monday. Ahead of his resentencing where he is expected to receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole, a spokesperson with San Mateo County's Superior Court told KCRA 3 Peterson was moved to a jail in the county on Monday. He is not able to post bail. Peterson was convicted in 2004 for the murders of his wife Laci and unborn son Conner. Laci was 28 years old and eight months pregnant at the time of her killing. He originally received a death sentence but that was overturned last year by the California Supreme Court because jurors who personally disagreed with the death penalty but were willing to impose it were improperly dismissed. He will no longer face the death penalty, but he c

Texas | Commentary: Death row inmate right; test DNA

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Ruben Gutierrez, who is facing execution , has asked for DNA testing of crime scene evidence for more than 10 years. The reasonable position is to test the DNA. The prosecutor’s position — blocking testing — is the unreasonable one. There should be nothing controversial about wanting to learn the truth. As a former elected Bexar County district attorney, I find the prosecution’s refusal to ensure accuracy in this case mystifying. The prosecutor has a moral, ethical and legal duty to see that justice is done. The prosecutor should be the one requesting DNA testing, not refusing it at every turn. At trial, the prosecution argued Gutierrez, either alone or with others, stabbed Escolastica Harrison. Gutierrez maintains he did not kill Harrison and that he had no knowledge that others were going to assault or kill her. The Brownsville police collected several pieces of evidence with biological material that are likely to contain the DNA of the person or people who killed Harrison. These ite

Alabama | Death-row inmate, 64, dies of cancer four years after surviving botched execution

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Doyle Hamm’s failed execution was likened to ‘torture’ after medical team struggled to find vein for lethal injection A three-decade death row inmate in Alabama has died of cancer four years after his sentence was postponed thanks to an excruciating failed execution . Doyle Hamm , 64, had been awaiting execution since he was convicted of murder in 1987, and was already terminally ill with lymphatic cancer when his execution was finally scheduled in 2017. When prison staff attempted to carry it out the following year, they not only failed to kill him but subjected him to a two-and-a-half hour ordeal of excruciating pain while they tried to find a vein through which he could be injected with lethal drugs. RELATED | Execution of Alabama inmate Doyle Lee Hamm called off RELATED |  Alabama: Lawyer calls aborted execution attempt for Doyle Lee Hamm 'torture' After the failed execution, Mr Hamm’s team filed a medical report detailing the injuries he sustained and the intensity of h

Clemency hearing Tuesday for Idaho death row inmate with cancer

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho’s parole board is scheduled to hold a hearing this week on a request to reduce the death penalty sentence of an inmate with terminal cancer to a sentence of life in prison. Idaho’s Commission of Pardons and Parole is scheduled to meet Tuesday to hear the request to commute the sentence of Gerald Ross Pizzuto Jr., who was convicted of a double murder in 1985, the Idaho Statesman reports. The commission agreed to the hearing in May, staying Pizzuto’s June 2 execution date. Pizzuto, 65, has been on death row for 35 years after being convicted for the July 1985 slayings of two gold prospectors at a cabin north of McCall. Pizzuto has bladder cancer, diabetes and heart disease and is confined to a wheelchair.  He’s been on hospice care since 2019, when doctors said he likely wouldn’t survive for another year. If the seven-member board grants Pizzuto clemency, Gov. Brad Little must approve the decision. Court records show Pizzuto’s life was marred by violence from ch

Death in Texas: Opinion

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Texas once again demonstrates that it can show the rest of the country the way and is now doing so at considerable expense to itself, by arguing a death penalty case in the United States Supreme Court. The current case is not the first time Texas has taken steps to address death penalty practices that have caught national attention. In 2011 it addressed the question of the death penalty prospect’s cuisine. It has long been a tradition in many states that in order to make the hours immediately preceding the execution of the death penalty more pleasant for its beneficiary, the beneficiary may select the last meal he or she will ever eat. Until 2011, the beneficiary of the death penalty in Texas could select whatever he or she wanted for a last meal. Since it was taking place in Texas, cost was no object. That changed in 2011, however, because of the egregious behavior of Lawrence Russell Brewer. On January 24, 1992, the day on which Lawrence was to be executed, Mr. Brewer could, accordin