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Q&As: Kirsten Han, anti-death penalty advocate in Singapore

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In the third of the DPRU's (Death Penalty Research Unit, University of Oxford, Faculty of Law) series of Q&As with death penalty experts from around the world, Kirsten Han, an anti-death penalty advocate in Singapore, tells DPRU Research Officer Jocelyn Hutton about her current work and about her involvement in the case of the recently executed Nagaenthran Dharmalingam . Can you tell us a little bit about the work that you do in relation to the death penalty? A lot of my contribution to the campaign to abolish the death penalty in Singapore has to do with storytelling, since that fits with the skills that I have as a writer and journalist, and because abolitionist perspectives, or any in-depth coverage of capital punishment, are missing from the local government-controlled mainstream media. I write about death row prisoners and the experiences of their families, try to humanise this issue. For many Singaporeans, it’s so distant and so abstract that it’s very easy to dismiss; so

After acquiring lethal injection drugs, Arizona struggles to administer them

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Frank Atwood is the next man scheduled to be executed in Arizona, on June 8. He was sentenced to death in Pima County in 1987 for the murder of an 8-year-old girl, Vicki Lynne Hoskinson. Because Atwood’s crimes occurred before the gas chamber was outlawed in Arizona in 1992, he has a choice between death by lethal gas or lethal injection. His attorneys argue both methods would amount to cruel and unusual punishment. They say the lethal injection would cause Atwood a “tortuous” amount of pain because he suffers from a spinal condition, and would likely have to be restrained while laying down to a gurney for more than 20 minutes. A review performed by Atwood’s attorneys of 14 previous lethal injections in Arizona prior to Clarence Dixon’s found the total IV insertion time ranged from 7 minutes, all the way up to 54 minutes, with a median time of 23 minutes. “The time that patently unqualified people spend attempting to install an IV line is just one of the steps the department takes afte

Taiwan | Death penalty issue ignored

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A death-row inmate waiting for news of execution, potentially with notice of only 30 minutes, is subject to a form of physical and psychological torture, and that torture is being perpetuated by the state.  In a country where the death penalty exists, whether or not a current moratorium holds, for an inmate that has been on death row for decades this torture is amplified and drawn out beyond measure. If the individual is guilty of their crimes, it could be debated whether this form of retributive justice is appropriate. If they have been wrongfully convicted, that argument is obliterated. The most recent execution in Taiwan was in 2020, but there are 38 prisoners on death row. A country that continues to uphold the death penalty would have to be very confident about the robustness of its judicial system, the reliability of investigations — including how confessions of guilt are obtained — the quality of verdicts handed down in the nation’s courts, and the adequacy of systemic checks an

Belarus president changes death penalty law to target opposition

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Belarus has introduced the death penalty for planning an attack or "attempting an act of terrorism", according to a decree issued Wednesday — charges that target many opposition activists, including its exiled leader. "Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed the law providing on the possibility of the death penalty for an attempted act of terrorism,” according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. Until now, only those who were found guilty of committing such an act could face the firing squad. The law is supposed to come into force in 10 days. According to another Russian state agency, Interfax, the text notes that no "preparation or attempt" of a crime is punishable by death except for those qualified as "terrorists". Belarus, a former Soviet republic allied with Russia, is the last country in Europe still to apply the death penalty. The country carries out several executions each year. The latest change to the law was in prepar

Iran executes more people than almost any other nation. A pop star is trying to change that

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TEHRAN — Vahid Muharrami stumbled upon the plans for his own execution while working on the prison computer system. An inmate in northwestern Iran, he had been tapped by prison officials to help with computer work at the facility because of his technical expertise. That’s how, in August 2020, he came across the documents that meant he had two more days to live, at most. “When I saw the special paperwork in the system, I realized that I was only 24 hours or 48 hours max away from the gallows,” said Muharrami, 37, who was sentenced to death for his part in a 2014 brawl that killed a man. He had already watched as 130 other convicts in his prison, in the city of Ardebil, were sent to their deaths over the previous six and a half years. Muharrami asked for permission to call his mother to dictate his last will and testament over the phone — and to prepare her for seeing his broken, lifeless body in the prison yard, so that she wouldn’t pass out as many other mothers of executed men had. Bu

Fallout From Aborted Tennessee Execution: Prosecutors Misrepresented Facts in Federal Lawsuit, 2 Members of Execution Team Knew Drugs Had Not Been Tested

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The fallout following Tennessee’s aborted attempt to execute Oscar Smith on April 21, 2022 continues to grow, as state prosecutors disclosed that their pleadings had misrepresented facts in a federal lethal injection lawsuit and public records revealed that at least two members of the execution team knew the day before Smith was to be executed that the drugs purchased to put Smith to death had not been properly tested. Redacted records obtained by several media outlets on May 13, 2022 in response to public records requests document that at least two members of Tennessee’s execution team knew on April 20, 2022 that the state had failed to test the execution drugs for bacterial toxins, in violation of the requirements of its execution protocol. That failure led Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to issue a last-minute reprieve halting Smith’s execution “[d]ue to an oversight in preparation for lethal injection.”  Smith had already eaten his last meal and was receiving communion when he learned

Russian soldier pleads guilty at Ukraine war crimes trial

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A 21-year-old Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since Moscow invaded Ukraine pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing an unarmed civilian. Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin could get life in prison for shooting a a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in the northeastern Sumy region on Feb. 28, four days into the invasion. Shishimarin, a captured member of a Russian tank unit, was prosecuted under a section of the Ukrainian criminal code that addresses the laws and customs of war. Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova previously said her office was readying war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting. It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects are in Ukrainian hands and how many would be tried in absentia . Prosecutors plan to continue presenting evidence against Shishimarin following his guilty plea, although the trial is

What’s next for Buffalo mass shooting suspect? ‘I would expect them to seek the federal death penalty,' says legal analyst

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The suspect in the mass shooting at Tops on Jefferson Avenue is due in court Thursday for a felony hearing. But there are two things that may happen before then, absolving the need for the felony hearing. "I expect that he'll be indicted, but I also expect that the Department of Justice and the Assistant United States Attorney General Trini Ross will bring federal charges, federal hate crime charges, against the suspect. It carries the death penalty," New York Attorney General Letita James said. 7 News Legal Expert Florina Altshiler said she expects the federal case and state case will move forward concurrently. "Different charges, that's why they can happen concurrently. The federal case would be for federal hate crime charges. The reason for the federal case happening is the federal government can do things that the state government can not," Altshiler said. In New York State, there is no death penalty. The highest level of punishment is life without the p