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

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Malaysia: Amnesty urges government to halt execution of brothers convicted of murder

Suthar (left) and Rames Batumalai
Suthar (left) and Rames Batumalai
PETALING JAYA: Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM) is urging the Government to stop the execution of two brothers on Friday in view of a pending application for a royal pardon.

Brothers Rames and Suthar Batumalai, who were convicted for murder in April 2010, have less than 12 hours before execution, said AIM executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu.

The clemency application was submitted to the Negri Sembilan Pardons Board on Thursday by Haresh Mahadevan & Co.

Shamini said that the Pardons Board must be given time to review the application.

"The family is distraught and are appealing to the Yang di-Pertuan Negri Sembilan to spare their lives," she said in a statement Thursday night.

She added that the family of Rames, 44, and Suthar, 39, were only informed on Wednesday that they should visit the brothers for the last time on Thursday ahead of their execution.

The brothers were found guilty of a murder committed in Feb 2006.

According to Shamini, the pair was moved from their respective detention facilities to Kajang Prison, where the executions are set to take place.

"The death penalty can never be justified regardless of the crime committed. The authorities must immediately take a step to prevent this double execution," Shamini said, adding that AIM was not downplaying the seriousness of any crime committed.

Source: The Star Online, February 23, 2017


Double Execution in Less than 12 Hours Must Be Stopped, Amnesty International Malaysia Says


Brothers Rames and Suthar Batumalai have less than 12 hours before they face the noose if the authorities do not stop the execution in view of a pending clemency application.

The clemency application was submitted to the Negri Sembilan Pardons Board today by Haresh Mahadevan & Co, and it must be given time to review the application. The executions must not go on, Amnesty International Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said tonight. No executions must be carried out while appeals are pending.

“Late last night, we learned that Rames and Suthar were scheduled to be executed in Kajang Prison on Friday morning, which mean they have less than 12 hours to live now. The family is distraught and are appealing to the Yang Di Pertuan Negri Sembilan to spare their lives. ,” she said.

The family of Rames, 44, and Suthar, 39, was only informed yesterday that they should visit the brothers for the last time today ahead of their execution “soon”. Amnesty International sighted the letter.

Rames and Suthar were mandatorily sentenced to death in April 2010 under Section 302 of the Penal Code after they were found guilty of a murder committed on 4 February 2006. On 22 February 2017 the pair was moved from their separate detention facilities to Kajang prison where the executions are set to take place tomorrow. International law prohibits the use of the mandatory death penalty.

“The death penalty can never be justified regardless of the crime committed. The authorities must immediately take a step to prevent this double execution,” Shamini said.

Amnesty International believes that the brothers, who were represented at trial by the same lawyer, were convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone. During the trial they claimed that they had intervened to stop two other men from attacking and killing the deceased, claims which were disregarded by the High Court. The Court also failed to call a key witness, the deceased’s wife, to testify. Her testimony could have corroborated the brothers’ version of the facts and the involvement of the two other men in the murder.

“The 1984 UN Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty provide that the death penalty be imposed ‘only when the guilt of the person charged is based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts’ and this has not been made clear in this instance.”

Amnesty International has issued an Urgent Action to its global network to intervene on the executions and is also appealing to the Ruler of Negeri Sembilan state to stop the execution.

The secretive nature of executions in Malaysia has been consistently criticised by Amnesty International. Information is hardly made publicly available on individual death penalty cases and families are often informed merely days before that their loved ones will be executed.

“The lack of transparency around executions in Malaysia is a violation of international law and standards. Families must have sufficient time to prepare for the last visit and take any further recourse available at the national or international level.” Shamini said.

There is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect on crime.

“Amnesty International Malaysia does not downplay the seriousness of crimes committed, but we urge the authorities to consider introducing more effective crime prevention measures that respect human rights instead of continuously using one that has no merit.

Amnesty International Malaysia calls on the Malaysian government to put a stop to the double execution and impose a moratorium on executions immediately with a view to full abolition.

TAKE ACTION


Send an email, call, fax or tweet:

• Immediately take all the necessary steps to halt the execution of Suthar and B. Rames Batumalai, and to accept their new clemency appeal;
• Immediately establish a moratorium on executions and commute all death sentence as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty;
• Move forward with legislative reforms on the mandatory death penalty and abolish this punishment from national legislation.

➤ Prime Minister of Malaysia
Mohd Najib Razak
Office of The Prime Minister of Malaysia Main Block,
Perdana Putra Building Federal Government Administrative Centre,
62502 Putrajaya, Malaysia
Fax: +603-88883444 or +603-88883904
Email: ppm@pmo.gov.my
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister


➤ H.E. Ambassador Datuk Dr. Awang Adek Hussin
Embassy of Malaysia
3516 International Court, NW, Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 572 9882
Phone: 202 572 9700
Email: mwwashington@kln.gov.my
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Source: Amnesty International Malaysia, February 23, 2017

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The executions Justice Sotomayor calls ‘horrifying deaths’

Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Justice Sonia Sotomayor
The Supreme Court said Tuesday that it would not hear the case of an Alabama inmate whose execution the justices delayed in November. This decision was accompanied by a critical dissent written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who questioned whether lethal injection — the primary method of execution in the United States — “appears humane [but] may turn out to be our most cruel experiment yet.”

Sotomayor’s explanation for this sentiment doubles as a modern history of the death penalty, which has been on the decline nationwide for years. In her 18-page dissent, she excoriates the use of midazolam, a sedative that Alabama uses in its lethal injection protocol and has cropped up recently in other executions that were apparently bungled or took longer than usual.

Early in her dissent, Sotomayor describes lethal injections in the United States as being “generally accomplished through serial administration of three drugs.” This is actually no longer the case, although it was when the Supreme Court, in 2008, upheld Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol and essentially ended a nationwide moratorium on executions.

Since then, lethal injection drugs have become more difficult to obtain amid a shortage, and executions have become a fractured process, with different states using different chemicals and combinations. This fact, though, feeds into Sotomayor’s argument about the use of midazolam in executions that have drawn scrutiny, because it was this shortage and the ensuing scramble that led states to adopt midazolam.

The three-drug protocol Sotomayor outlines — an anesthetic, a paralytic and a drug that stops the heart — was used in most lethal injections until 2010, when the drug shortage, prompted in part by European objections to capital punishment, began to dry up the supply. State officials began scrambling to obtain other drugs and rewrite their lethal injection protocols in an effort to continue carrying out executions, but the drug shortages and legal challenges helped contribute to plummeting execution rates.

One of the drugs added to the mix since the shortage began is midazolam, which a handful of states incorporated into their plans. Sotomayor, joined by Justice Stephen G. Breyer in her dissent on Tuesday, outlined what she calls the “terrifying” recent history of midazolam — with the most recent headline-generating incident occurring in December, when Alabama executed Ronald Bert Smith Jr.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The Washington Post, Mark Berman, February 21, 2017

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USA: Former Robins airman gets life sentence in pregnant girlfriend's murder

Charles Amos Wilson III
Charles Amos Wilson III
A former Robins airman accused of killing his fiancee and her unborn child will serve life in prison without parole, but not the death penalty.

A military court-martial panel on Wednesday delivered their sentence on Charles Amos Wilson III.

He's a former support team member with the 461st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Last week, Wilson was convicted of killing Tameda Ferguson, who was 8.5 months pregnant., back in 2013.

On Wednesday, the court-martial panel of Air Force officers and enlisted members delivered their sentence.

In addition to the life sentence, Wilson's rank was knocked down to E-1, a recruit's level. He loses all back pay and allowances and will be dishonorably discharged.

This is the last of 3 court-martial proceedings in the past year for Wilson.

In his 1st court-martial, Wilson was found not guilty of murder and arson charges as well as insurance fraud after a fire in his rental home killed Demetrius Hardy, a civilian employee at Robins.

In June, another jury found Wilson guilty of assault against a female Air Force technical sergeant back in 2012.

Robins Air Force Base released this statement on the sentence:

"The Air Force has great confidence in our military justice system which holds members accountable for their actions and provides a fair and efficient process for the just resolution of cases. Today, three-fourths of a panel of 13 officer and enlisted members sentenced Airman First Class Charles Amos Wilson III to Life without the eligibility for parole, a reduction to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a dishonorable discharge for the premeditated murder of Ms. Tameda Ferguson and her unborn child. Airman First Class Wilson's crimes are an extreme departure from the high standards the Air Force sets for its people, and he is not representative of the exceptional Airmen serving and defending our nation."

Source: WMAZ news, February 23, 2017

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Ex-officials at Vietnamese firm sentenced to death

Former CEO and sales manager at state-owned company found to have stolen millions in country's largest embezzlement scandal

A Vietnamese court issued the death penalty Wednesday for 2 former executives at state-owned shipbuilding firm Vinashin in the largest embezzlement scandal to hit the nation.

Tran Van Liem, the former CEO at the company's Vinashinlines subsidiary and Giang Kim Dat, its former sales manager, were sentenced to death by a Hanoi court for embezzling $16 million from the firm.

Dat and Liem were found guilty of using their positions to steal assets, including conspiring with business partners to fix prices on ships the company had acquired in the late 2000s.

As sales manager, Dat received between 2 and 3.75 % on every closed transaction.

Tran Van Khuong, Vinashinline's ex-chief accountant, was also sentenced to life imprisonment on the same charge while Giang Van Hien, Dat's father, received a 12-year sentence for money laundering.

All men claimed innocence at their 6-day trial.

Vinashin, which the government had flooded with debt on the expressed hope that its shipbuilding prowess would elevate Vietnam on the global stage, had a peak debt of $4.5 billion when the scandal emerged in 2010.

The embezzlement was particularly embarrassing for Vietnam when the company defaulted on $600 million in foreign loans the same year.

Moody's attributed the fate of Vinashin, which had been funded partially by a $750 million sovereign debt issuance, when it downgraded Vietnam's credit rating in 2010.

9 officials, including Liem, were convicted of other charges related to the scandal in 2012.

Liem had been sentenced to 19 years for failing to stop the embezzlement, although he wasn't yet considered one of its chief beneficiaries.

Dat, who fled the country in 2010, had been hiding in several countries on fake passports over a 5-year period before being returned in 2015 to face trial.

Source: aa.com.tr, February 23, 2017

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Supreme Court last battleground to stop death penalty reimposition: Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines

Philippine Supreme Court
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Wednesday said the last battleground to stop the reimposition of the death penalty would be the Supreme Court should Congress approve its reimposition.

CBCP Commission on Prison Pastoral Care Executive Secretary Rodolfo Diamante said anti-death penalty advocates would not give up easily if the controversial measure would be passed into law.

"We will go to the Supreme Court. We will exhaust all these legal means available because we believe that it [its reimposition] is unconstitutional. It is cruel. It is inhumane," Diamante said.

In a related development:

-- House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas said there might be no execution under the Duterte administration once the House of Representatives passed the death penalty bill, adding the execution of the 1st convict might not take place in the next 4 years because of long court proceedings.

The CBCP and advocates are now conducting studies to build a strong case against the capital punishment.

Diamante said they were considering at least 2 options on how to challenge the death penalty before SC - either through death-row convicts or through lawmakers who ratified the country's international treaty obligation against it.

Diamante said filing the objection against the reimposition of death penalty through lawmakers might be more practical since they could easily invoke the violation of the country's commitment to the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

"The argument could be possible since the country has already signed the treaty, a senator can easily claim that he/she is affected since he/she was among those that ratified it. Therefore, they can file a case before the SC," Diamante said.

On the other hand, anti-death penalty advocates can also wait for the "test case" involving a death row convict.

"So that the case won't be dismissed, there has to be a victim. In that sense, we can do it when a person convicted and penalized with death penalty files a case to the SC and say it is unconstitutional," Diamante said.

Aside from the high court, he revealed that another plan was to bring the issue to the international community since the Philippines signed the ICCPR.

"We are seeking the opinion of the international community. The Philippines cannot simply withdraw unilaterally. It has repercussions. And the international community is very active in making pronouncements," he added.

In the House, Farinas said the death penalty bill was among the priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte.

He said if the bill were enacted, it would not have a retroactive effect.

"...because the President has about five years and four months left, so just think how long the gestation period of a death penalty case is. It will really take time," Farinas said. MP Reps. Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela, Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte, Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar agreed with Farinas.

"That is correct because we have removed the mandatory penalty of death," Evardone said.

Paranaque Rep. Gus Tambunting also welcomed the decision of the House leadership to keep plunder in the list of heinous crimes under the death penalty bill.

"Plunder can kill. It should be included in the list of crimes punishable by the death penalty," Tambunting said.

Tambunting stressed that taking a huge some of money "intended for the benefit of the Filipino people should be made an offense punishable by death."

The House is scheduled to pass the bill on Feb. 28.

Farinas said the debates on House Bill 4727 would continue. But he said it had to be terminated if oppositors to the measure would continue to question the quorum.

After the termination of the period of interpellation, Farinas said there would be a period of amendments, in which the lawmakers could introduce their proposed changes.

From the 21 heinous crimes, the list was narrowed down to 4 offenses: plunder, treason, drug-related offenses and rape.

The proposed measure provides that the judge would be given options on which mode to carry out in imposing death: lethal injection, firing squad and hanging.

Source: Manila Standard, February 23, 2017


House ends death penalty debates ahead of schedule


Philippine House of Representatives
The House of Representatives ended the plenary debates on the revival of the death penalty Wednesday evening - after 7 session days and hearing only 7 of the 25 lawmakers who wanted to interpellate the bill's sponsor.

In closing the debates, House Deputy Majority Leader Rimpy Bondoc cited House Rule Section 54 which stated that the debate could be closed after 3 speeches in favor and 2 against.

The period of sponsorship and debates began February 1 - and was originally expected to last until the end of the month or early March.

The voting is now set on Tuesday, February 28, instead of the initial schedule of March 8.

After the termination of the debates, the period of amendments was opened and a substitute bill was adopted after a viva voce vote or voting by saying ayes and nays.

Those against the bill repeatedly raised point of orders by citing irregularities in parliamentary procedure.

Bill critics also repeatedly questioned the presence of quorum.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman also insisted that the substitute bill was invalid and illegal because it was not approved by the Justice committee.

Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza also asked for a nominal voting after the viva voce vote on the substitute bill because he insisted the voices of those against were louder.

However, presiding officer Sharon Garin rejected all motions of the opposition.

Substitute bill


The substitute bill, composed of amendments agreed upon by the majority bloc, lists down 4 crimes punishable by death.

  • treason
  • plunder
  • rape with homicide, rape of a minor, and rape committed by law enforcement officers
  • drug-related crimes, such as the importation, sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution, transportation, manufacture of dangerous drugs and maintenance of a drug den


Possession of drugs has been removed from the list of crimes punishable by death, as well as carnapping, kidnapping, and qualified bribery.

The substitute bill says the death sentence may be carried out either by hanging, firing squad, or lethal injection.

It also has safeguards to ensure the rights of the accused: like requiring the provincial or city prosecutor to furnish copies of the information of a case involving a heinous crime to the Commission on Human Rights, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Free Legal Assistance Group.

The bill also requires the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) to convene a special panel to conduct a thorough review of the case once a judgment of conviction with a penalty of death has been rendered by a Regional Trial Court. The OSG and PAO may also recommend to the Office of the President the suspension of the execution.

Source: cnnphilippines.com, February 22, 2017

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U.S. Supreme Court denies Texans' appeals

2 Texans on death row for separate slayings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have lost appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Without comment, the justices refused Monday to review the cases of 52-year-old Joseph Lave and 54-year-old Juan Segundo.

Lave was condemned to die in a 1992 robbery in which 2 teenagers were killed and almost decapitated. 

Segundo was arrested nearly 19 years after an 11-year-old Fort Worth girl was raped and strangled in her home.

Neither man has an execution date schedule.

Joseph Lave


In November 1992, 2 teenagers working at a Herman's World of Sporting Goods store in Richardson were killed in a brutal robbery.

Frederick Banzhaf and Justin Marquart, both 18, were bound and blindfolded with duct tape before their heads were bashed with a hammer and their throats were slashed nearly ear to ear.

Angie King, a store manager at the time, was also attacked and bound but she was able to free herself and called police.

Lave was 1 of 3 suspects and got the death sentence after King identified him as the killer based on his voice, which she said sounded like Donald Duck's.

Lave's execution date was halted in 2007 when the Dallas County district attorney's office realized evidence was not turned over to Lave's attorneys that included a 2nd polygraph test by a co-defendant.

Lave has remained in prison as his case made its way through the court system to the Supreme Court.

Juan Segundo


In August 1986, an 11-year-old Fort Worth girl was raped and strangled. Her 3 young cousins slept through the attack after the killer removed a window fan to quietly slip into the room.

Her family found a note written in a dictionary in Vanessa Villa's befroom.

"Mama, take me from this place. I'm scared," the note read, according to her uncle Juan Carranza.

Vanessa might have been assaulted before and Segundo threatened her to keep quiet, so she wrote the note, he said.

2 decades later, a national DNA database matched Segundo to her slaying. Attorneys claimed last year that Segundo's lawyers were deficient in the 2006 Tarrant County trial and failed to properly investigate and develop evidence that he was intellectually disabled, but courts have rejected that claim.

Source: Dallas Morning News, February 23, 2017

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Prosecutors: Dylann Roof drove toward second AME church after Emanuel AME Church shooting

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
In the spring of 2015, Dylann Roof told friends he wanted to see something happen in South Carolina that would make global headlines, like the September 11 terrorist attacks did for New York. Just weeks later, he walked into Charleston's Emanuel AME Church and gunned down nine black worshippers at a Wednesday evening Bible study.

The tragedy succeeded in drawing the world's attention to Charleston, but newly unsealed court documents suggest Roof might have had even darker plans for the night of June 17, 2015.

After committing the massacre at Emanuel, Roof drove straight toward a second church with black parishioners while still armed with a .45-caliber Glock pistol and hollow-point rounds, according to a September motion from federal prosecutors. Branch AME Church in Jedburg, located about 29 miles from Charleston, had also advertised a weekly Bible study that night.

The Bible study at Branch AME, however, had been called off, according to the Rev. Rufus Berry, the church's pastor of seven years. Berry said he didn't know the 22-year-old white supremacist had passed by his 147-year-old church until media reports about Roof's travels surfaced Wednesday.

"Nobody said anything about it to me at the time," Berry said. "Just hearing about this is kind of mind-boggling."

Roof was sentenced to death in January for the mass shooting at Emanuel. He is now being held at the Charleston County jail while he awaits a state trial on murder charges stemming from the attack.

Investigators traced Roof's route after the killings by analyzing a GPS device found in his car. The GPS showed that Roof shut off the device for about two minutes as he approached Branch AME, a sign that he had stopped his car near the church at 482 Jedburg Road, prosecutors said.

The GPS data also showed that Roof had driven by Branch AME about four months before the shooting, on Feb. 27, 2015, prosecutors said. At the time, the then-21-year-old loner was living some 74 miles away in Eastover — more than hour's drive from the church. The trip also took place around the time Roof purchased a web domain that would serve as the host site for a racist manifesto he posted just before his killing spree at Emanuel.

The similarities between Emanuel and Branch AME churches, coupled with the fact that Roof was still armed, "supports the inference that Defendant intended to continue his racially-motivated violence at Branch AME Church that night and, more specifically, that his intended targets were African-American congregants at a church," prosecutors stated in their motion.

In a separate motion, defense attorneys offered much a less nefarious explanation: Roof was simply trying to get away after the mass shooting at Emanuel and had exited Interstate 26 in Jedburg so he could take back roads in hope of avoiding law enforcement. That he traveled by Branch AME was just a coincidence as he followed a route to Shelby, N.C., where he was eventually arrested the next day, they argued.

"It appears that the GPS device was briefly turned off, and then back on, in the general vicinity of the church, but there is no indication that the defendant stopped or even slowed down as he passed by," the defense motion stated. "Given the large number of AME churches in South Carolina, he also drove nearby many other AME churches between Charleston and Shelby, but there is no evidence that he approached any of them."

The jury in Roof's recent death penalty trial heard about lists of predominantly black churches found in his car after his arrest, but jurors weren't told about his visits to Branch AME. The church was not among those listed on pieces of paper found in his vehicle.

Other newly unsealed documents show defense attorneys sought to block prosecutors from introducing evidence about those lists, as well as GPS data about his visits to Branch AME and two photographs taken of the church. Prosecutors chose not to push for the jury to hear about Branch AME, rendering that point moot.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, however, allowed the lists of churches to come in, disagreeing with the defense's contention that the documents would be unfairly prejudicial to Roof's case.

"Lists of many African-American churches found in the car used to attack the first-listed church suggest the attack was deliberate and premeditated," Gergel stated in an Oct. 19 ruling. "The lists suggest Defendant wanted to target African-American communities, that he researched lists of such communities as possible targets, and that the place he attacked was at the top of his list."

Roof fired some 77 rounds inside Emanuel on the night of the attack in what prosecutors have said was an attempt to spark a race war. He later told FBI agents that he saved an additional magazine of bullets to kill himself if encountered police when he left the church. None were waiting, however, so he jumped in his car and drove off, heading in the direction of Branch AME.

The hour-long Bible study at Branch AME would likely have been over long before Roof passed by that night, even if it hadn't been canceled, the church's pastor said. But he and lifelong church member Jannette Alston were still unsettled by the news that Roof had come so close to their small church, which has about 70 members.

"It blew it my mind when I heard about it today that he went to our church," Alston said.

Source: The Post and Courier, Glenn Smith, February 22, 2017

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Philippines: Lawyers say death penalty endangers the poor

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Lawyers here expressed their objection to the re-imposition of the death penalty in the country, saying that it would endanger and a disadvantage to the poor because of the “corrupt” criminal justice system in the Philippines.

Speaking in a forum titled “Thou Shall Not Kill: A Forum on Death Penalty” held at the Ateneo De Davao University Wednesday, Atty. Arnold Abejaron, executive secretary of the Ateneo De Davao University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council, warned that the imposition of death penalty would be “dangerous.”

“We see it always in the news. We have policemen who are experts in fine arts, ibig sabihin magaling mag drawing, (good in [making up scenarios]) or nag-aral ng agriculture, ibig sabihin magaling mag planting (studied agriculture, meaning good [in planting evidence]),” Abejaron said.

Abejaron also suggested looking into preventing the crime from being committed, saying that many of those who have committed heinous crimes experienced abuses in their childhood.

“The best way really is to address the issue. How do we prevent kids or future adults from committing crimes? That is looking at how we reduce abuses in the family, because many of those who got into crimes have actually been victims of abuse when they were children,” Abejaron said.

For his part, Atty. Ray Paolo Santiago, executive director of the Ateneo Human Rights Center, supported Abejaron’s claim, saying most of those who are languishing in jail are poor and could not afford to hire the best lawyers.

“This is not to say that those who come from the Public Attorney’s office are not good, they are one of the best. But imagine the public attorney who is a government lawyer, pitted against a private lawyer who is solely handling maybe a big case. And then you have a public defender who is handling hundreds of other cases. You divide the time that you can allot,” Santiago said.

Santiago also noted the corruption present in the concerned agencies which further made a poor man’s task of defending oneself in court harder.

“In the justice system, there are different levels. [For example], you have a good law enforcer, a good policeman; gathers all the evidence. And then you have a corrupt prosecutor, what would happen? You have money? Okay I will dismiss the case. Let’s not fool ourselves, because that does happen,” Santiago said.

“It is a reality that those who have lesser in life, have difficult opportunities in defending themselves,” Santiago added.

When asked about the implications of the re -imposition of the death penalty and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of which the Philippines signed as a State Party in 1966, Santiago it will be up to the Supreme Court to settle the matter.

“Atty. Arnold mentioned that it’s embarrassing, particularly the implications internationally. However, we both agree that the President can actually do so,” Santiago pointed out.

“If congress insists, and then the president signs it into law, the next battle there, is not the international community, it’s going to the Supreme Court. The court will now rule whether the re imposition is valid or not under Philippine law,” Santiago said.

Source: davaotoday.com, Paulo C. Rizal, February 23, 2017

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UAE: Teenager gets death penalty for stabbing man to death in row over football

SHARJAH - A 19-year-old Pakistani student has been handed the death penalty for stabbing to death a countryman in a row over a football match.

The teenager claimed that he stabbed the victim in self-defence in Bu Taina, Sharjah, in August 2015, after the man attacked him with a knuckle duster.

Sharjah Criminal Court heard that the student lashed out with a small knife that he brought from his home before fleeing the scene.

The victim, Mohammed Dagher Ahmad, was rushed to Al Kuwaiti Hospital in Sharjah with the knife still lodged in his chest and he later died.

Hospital staff reported the incident to Sharjah Police and the student was arrested.

At a previous hearing in December last year, family of the deceased refused to pardon the killer and demanded the death penalty.

On Wednesday, they got what they wanted but the verdict shocked the teenager’s father.

"It was kids playing at a football match - there was no premeditated intention to kill him. The verdict is harsh, especially because it was self-defence," he said.

The father said he will refrain from telling his wife the verdict.

"I will not tell her the verdict now, she will be devastated. We will file for appeal and hope that the verdict be overturned and limited to serving time in prison instead of the death sentence," he added.

The verdict is subject to appeal within 15 days of sentencing.

Source: The National, February 22, 2017

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

U.S. top court spurns Alabama death row inmate; Sotomayor outraged

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear a death row inmate's challenge to Alabama's execution method, prompting liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor to assert that the court should have considered whether the lethal injection procedures amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

The court rejected an appeal by Thomas Arthur, convicted in the 1982 shooting death of his girlfriend's husband. In November, the court granted Arthur's request to put his execution on hold, but only because conservative Chief Justice John Roberts chose to side with the court's four liberals as a courtesy.

Sotomayor, in a strongly worded an 18-page opinion joined by fellow liberal Stephen Breyer dissenting from the court's refusal to hear the case, further exposed the rift among the 8 justices over the death penalty.

"He has amassed significant evidence that Alabama's current lethal junction protocol will result in intolerable and needless agony," she wrote, referring to Arthur's argument that Alabama's lethal injection method violated the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Arthur had proposed being executed by firing squad instead.

Sotomayor said American society's acceptance of different methods of execution has changed over time, as science reveals the level of suffering involved. States have cast aside hanging, electrocution and gas chambers for this reason, turning since the 1980s to an injection of lethal chemicals.

"What cruel irony that the method that appears most humane may turn out to be our most cruel experiment yet," Sotomayor wrote.

The justices have sharply disagreed among themselves over capital punishment. In 2015, they upheld Oklahoma's lethal injection process in a 5-4 ruling even as Breyer and fellow liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg raised concerns about whether capital punishment violated the Eighth Amendment.

Breyer repeated his concerns on Dec. 12 on the same day the court rejected four other death penalty appeals. But the court has shown no signs it will take up the broader question of the constitutionality of the death penalty.

Arthur has been on death row for more than three decades since being convicted of fatally shooting Troy Wicker as he slept.

Lawyers for Arthur have said lower courts are divided over how to interpret the Supreme Court's 2015 Oklahoma decision. Their challenge focused on part of that ruling that said an inmate contesting a method of execution based on the risk of severe pain must show there is a "known and available alternative."

Arthur's lawyers asked the Supreme Court to clarify several issues, including whether prisoners can only pick available alternatives that are already available in the state where they are to be executed and whether, if they are proposing a lethal injection drug, they have to show the drug is readily available.

Under Alabama law, death by firing squad is not available, Sotomayor noted. As a result, the legal rule set by the Supreme Court in the 2015 case "permits states to immunize their methods of execution - no matter how cruel or how unusual - from judicial review and thus permits state law to subvert the federal constitution," she wrote.

Sotomayor said the meaning of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment should be determined not by the standards that prevailed when the amendment was adopted in 1791 but instead by the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.

The case focused on the use of a sedative called midazolam as part of the lethal injection drug cocktail. Sotomayor said examples are piling up with evidence of midazolam's inability to render an execution painless.

Sotomayor wrote, "Execution absent an adequate sedative thus produces a nightmarish death: The condemned prisoner is conscious but entirely paralyzed, unable to move or scream his agony, as he suffers what may well be the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake."

Source: Reuters, February 22, 2017


Supreme Court denies execution by firing squad


Thomas Arthur
Thomas Arthur
The Supreme Court refused Tuesday, over the vehement dissent of 2 justices, to let a death-row prisoner in Alabama choose a firing squad over a lethal injection cocktail that has caused several botched executions in recent years.

The court's unsigned and unexplained denial represented the latest chapter in its running debate over the morality of the death penalty and the methods used to carry it out - a debate enlivened in 2015 when 2 justices said the time had come to decide whether capital punishment is constitutional.

At that time, the court ruled 5-4 that states could continue to use a controversial form of lethal injection that critics say can lead to severe pain and suffering, even if a sedative makes it impossible to tell whether the condemned prisoner can feel its effects. The court also said prisoners must identify a "known and available alternative" means of execution - something Justice Sonia Sotomayor called "a macabre challenge."

That's what Alabama's Thomas Arthur did. Citing the risks identified from the use of the sedative midazolam, he asked that a firing squad carry out the execution that had been scheduled six times since he killed his girlfriend's husband in 1982, only to be blocked by legal challenges.

But a federal appeals court ruled - and the Supreme Court apparently agreed - that Arthur failed to prove the lethal injection would be painful. What's more, the court said, Alabama does not authorize the use of a firing squad.

Sotomayor, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer - the court's leading critic of the death penalty - wrote a blistering 18-page dissent in which she said states can now "immunize their methods of execution, no matter how cruel or how unusual, from judicial review."

If Arthur was imprisoned in Oklahoma, where firing squads are authorized, he would be able to avoid lethal injection, she noted. Oklahoma is one of the states, along with Ohio, Arizona and Alabama, where executions using midazolam have caused prisoners to writhe in apparent pain over the past 3 years.

"Even if a prisoner can prove that the state plans to kill him in an intolerably cruel manner, and even if he can prove that there is a feasible alternative, all a state has to do to execute him through an unconstitutional method is to pass a statute declining to authorize any alternative method," Sotomayor said. "This cannot be right."

Source: USA Today, February 22, 2017


Sotomayor questions whether lethal injection is 'our most cruel experiment yet'


Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote Tuesday that lethal injection "may turn out to be our most cruel experiment yet" in the search for a humane manner in which to carry out the death penalty.

Sotomayor, along with Justice Stephen G. Breyer, dissented from the court's decision not to hear the case of Thomas Douglas Arthur, Alabama's oldest inmate, who killed his girlfriend's husband in 1982. The court, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. providing a "courtesy" 5th vote, recently delayed Arthur's execution while deciding whether to take his case.

As is the court's custom, the majority did not give a reason for passing up Arthur's case.

Sotomayor's dissent was just the latest example of how the court is split over the death penalty, although clearly a majority of the court still finds it constitutional. Breyer and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have called for the court to accept a case that would allow briefing on that question but have found no other takers.

Sotomayor in her Tuesday dissent did not question the constitutionality of the death penalty but criticized the methods by which it is carried out. In the past, she has been especially wary of Alabama's procedures.

Arthur had objected to the use of the drug midazolam in his planned lethal injection, saying it has led to unconstitutional levels of pain and suffering in previous executions. The Supreme Court upheld the drug's use in 2015's Glossip v. Gross, and said objecting inmates must prove the drug would cause severe pain and propose another means of execution.

Arthur proposed a firing squad. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit turned him down, saying that he had not met the burden of proving midazolam would cause pain so severe it would be unconstitutional and that the state of Alabama did not sanction firing squads.

Sotomayor called the Glossip decision's test "a macabre challenge" but said Arthur had met it.

"After 34 years of legal challenges, Arthur has accepted that he will die for his crimes," Sotomayor wrote. "He now challenges only how the state will be permitted to kill him."

Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion for the court's liberals in Glossip and Tuesday repeated assertions that midazolam might only mask pain and suffering during lethal injections, not relieve it. The court in the past has said needless suffering during executions is unconstitutional.

Death by firing squad may be more instant and cause less suffering, Sotomayor wrote. But in any case, denying Arthur that choice makes the test the court authorized in Glossip irrelevant, she said. "Under this view, even if a prisoner can prove that the state plans to kill him in an intolerably cruel manner, and even if he can prove that there is a feasible alternative, all a state has to do to execute him through an unconstitutional method is to pass a statute declining to authorize any alternative method," Sotomayor wrote. "This cannot be right."

While Sotomayor has not joined the call to consider whether the death penalty can ever be constitutionally applied, she has become an outspoken critic of how it is carried out.

Referring to hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber and lethal injection, she said: "Evolving standards have yielded a familiar cycle: States develop a method of execution, which is generally accepted for a time. Science then reveals that - unknown to the previous generation - the states' chosen method of execution causes unconstitutional levels of suffering."

Lethal injection, she said, may be the latest in that pattern.

"What cruel irony that the method that appears most humane may turn out to be our most cruel experiment yet," she wrote.

Source: al.com, February 22, 2017

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U.S. Supreme Court rejects appeal from Virginia death row inmate who shut down Virginia Tech's campus in 2006

The nation's highest court on Tuesday refused to hear the appeal of a Virginia death row inmate who killed a hospital security guard and sheriff's deputy during an escape that sparked a massive manhunt that shut down Virginia Tech's campus in 2006.

William Morva argued that he should have been allowed to present evidence that he wouldn't pose a threat to prison guards or others if he was sentenced to life in prison. But the U.S. Supreme Court left in place a ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting Morva's claims.

Morva's attorneys didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Morva had been in jail for about a year awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges when he was taken to a Blacksburg hospital for treatment of an injury in August 2006. 

After arriving at the hospital, he overpowered a Montgomery County sheriff's deputy and used the deputy's pistol to shoot an unarmed security guard, 32-year-old Derrick McFarland, while fleeing.

Morva's escape set off a police manhunt that forced Virginia Tech to cancel classes on the first day of the academic year and warn students to stay inside.

A day after McFarland's killing, Morva fatally shot Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Sutphin, who had been searching for the inmate on a walking trail near the Blacksburg campus. Later that day, police found Morva lying in a ditch with the sheriff's deputy's gun on the ground nearby.

Attorneys for Morva, now 35, told the Supreme Court that he was unfairly prevented from presenting evidence at trial to refute prosecutors' argument that Morva would threaten the lives of prison guards and others if allowed to live. 

Morva's trial lawyers had said a forensic psychologist would have shown jurors that Morva wasn't dangerous in prison, but they were blocked from presenting that testimony.

"With that testimony excluded, the prosecution argued freely to the jury - without fear of any meaningful rebuttal - that Mr. Morva would endanger the lives of prison guards unless sentenced to death," his attorneys told the Supreme Court.

Morva is 1 of 6 inmates on Virginia's death row. A circuit court will hold a hearing on Friday to set an execution date for another inmate, Ivan Teleguz, who was convicted in 2006 of hiring another man to kill his ex-girlfriend.

Source: Associated Press, February 22, 2017


Justices reject appeal from South Carolina death row inmate


The Supreme Court has turned away an appeal from a South Carolina death row inmate who pleaded guilty to killing an off-duty police officer during a multistate crime spree in 2004.

The justices on Tuesday left in place a lower court ruling that rejected Mikal Dean Mahdi's claims that his lawyer didn't do enough to present evidence of his troubled childhood.

Mahdi said his lawyer relied on a single expert witness instead of calling family members and others to offer more details about Mahdi's years growing up with an abusive father.

Prosecutors said that during his crime spree Mahdi killed a North Carolina convenience store clerk, carjacked a sport-utility vehicle in South Carolina and later killed Orangeburg Public Safety Capt. James Myers on Myers' farm.

Source: therepublic.com, February 22, 2017

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Delaware: Dover man on death row resentenced to life in prison

A Dover man on death row for 1st-degree murder has had his death sentence vacated, officials from the Delaware Department of Justice confirmed Tuesday.

Juan J. Ortiz, who had been on death row since 2003, is now sentenced to mandatory life in prison without benefit of probation or parole.

Ortiz had been convicted of 1st-degree murder for the 2001 shooting death of his live-in girlfriend Deborah Clay.

Court documents in that case show Ortiz had shot his girlfriend with a 12 gauge shotgun while she was taking a shower and then set their mobile home on fire.

Last year the Delaware Supreme Court ruled the state's death penalty as unconstitutional. 

The Court declared that ruling as retroactive, meaning the state's death row inmates would be resentenced.

Source: WMDT news, February 22, 2017

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