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Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

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Texans will have an opportunity to revisit a question that should haunt anyone who believes in the integrity of our criminal justice system: Did our state execute an innocent man? 
The new film “Trial by Fire” tells the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting a fire to his home in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters in 1991. The film is based on an investigative story by David Grann that appeared in the New Yorker in 2009, five years after Willingham was executed over his vociferous protestations of innocence.
In my experience of serving 8 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 years as a state district judge in Travis County, the Willingham case stands out to me for many of the same reasons it stood out to filmmaker Edward Zwick, who calls it a veritable catalogue of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system and, especially, the death penalty. False testimony, junk science, a jailhouse informant, and ineffe…

Iran: Man Hanged at Gorgan Prison

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Iran Human Rights (IHR); June 14, 2019: A man hanged at Gorgan prison for murder charges last Sunday.
According to HRANA, on the early morning of June 9, Hashem Amiri, 47, was executed at the northern Iranian city of Gorgan’s prison. 
He was a father of three kids.
“Hashem Amiri was a worker at a shopping centre four years ago. At that time, he fought with a shop owner and hit his head with a rod. 
The shop owner was killed and Hashem was sentenced to death,” a well-informed source said.
The aforementioned execution has not been announced by Iranian authorities or media so far.
There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.
Source:Iran Human Rights, Staff, June 13, 2019


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Tennessee preacher-cop calls for execution of LGBTQ people

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"The world looks at it like, there's Pastor Fritts, there's that lone wolf. There's Pastor Fritts, that one guy. That one Baptist pastor that's just a lunatic. That's just crazy. Guess what? There's a lot of people that believe exactly like I believe."
(CNN) -- Authorities in Tennessee are reviewing all pending cases involving a Knox County Sheriff's Office detective after he gave a sermon at his church that called for the government to execute members of the LGBTQ community.
"They are worthy of death," Grayson Fritts said in a June 2 sermon at All Scripture Baptist Church, a small church in Knoxville that he leads.
The church posted the sermon online and then removed it, according to The Washington Post. The video was picked up by the Tennessee Holler, an independent liberal news outlet, and edited into a six-minute clip.
"God has instilled the power of civil government to send the police in 2019 out to the LGBT freaks and arrest t…

The Saudi minor facing the death penalty is not alone. There have been many others.

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The charge sheet of a child sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia can be a grimly fascinating read. Alongside whichever manufactured “terrorism” offenses the teenager has “confessed” to after being subjected to electric shocks or beaten with metal bars, prosecutors often list some more revealing reasons for their detention.
Murtaja Qureiris, the youngest child facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, is accused of expressing political opinions, shouting demands for rights and using a loudspeaker at demonstrations. He has also been charged with making Molotov cocktails, possessing a gun and barricading streets with burning tires — between the ages of 10 and 13. This can all be distilled to a single ever-present charge: disobeying the ruler.
In the video recently published by CNN, Qureiris is a goofy 10-year-old, cycling with a gang of kids through the streets of Qatif to protest against the regime. He was later arrested and has spent more than four years in pretrial detention. His youth…

When We Kill - Everything you think you know about the death penalty is wrong.

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“I hereby sentence you to death.”
The words of Judge Clifford B. Shepard filled the courtroom in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 27, 1976. Shepard was sentencing Clifford Williams Jr., whom a jury had just found guilty of entering a woman’s house with a spare key entrusted to him and then shooting her dead from the foot of her bed.
It was a bizarre verdict, for forensics showed that the shots had been fired from outside the house — through the window, breaking the glass and piercing curtains and a screen. Moreover, at the time of the shooting Williams had been attending a birthday party, an alibi confirmed by many in attendance.
That didn’t matter, for Williams was an indigent black man with a public defender who didn’t call a single witness. The jury didn’t realize that he had an alibi or that the bullets had come from outside the house.
Judge Shepard, who was sometimes mocked in the legal community for harsh rulings and a weak intellect, ordered that “you be put to death in the electri…

The slow death of America's death penalty

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Dan Vasquez used to push the lever on the gas chamber, or the “coughing box,” as it was known on death row. As California's state executioner he stared into the eyes of condemned men while they passed to the next world.
“They try to hold their breath, but it seeps in through the pores,” he told The Sunday Telegraph. “It takes seven seconds. The head rolls forward, and then they flatline. One told me 'Everyone will dance with the grim reaper'.”
It is 25 years since Mr Vasquez, now retired, poisoned someone with hydrogen cyanide. He is still a supporter of the death penalty. But even he now admits its days are probably numbered.
“Does it stop murders? No. Is it a deterrent? No,” he said. “If the politicians get more votes by opposing it, then they’re going to do that. Maybe it will be abolished.”
Across America in 2019 that is exactly what is happening.
Last week New Hampshire became the latest state to repeal its death penalty in what campaigners hailed as a watershed mome…

Prison Reform International seeks to help Kazakhstan reform criminal justice system, prevent torture

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NUR-SULTAN – Penal Reform International (PRI) is seeking to assist Kazakhstan in reforming its penal system, step up efforts to prevent torture and update detention facilities in line with international standards, said PRI Central Asia Director Azamat Shambilov.
The organisation has been working for 30 years across 90 countries worldwide.  
“There was one person, Ahmed Othmani, who was a former prisoner. He had been in prison for 12 years. He was sentenced due to his political views. Amnesty International gave him the status of a prisoner of conscience. When he was released, he started to work at Amnesty International fighting for human rights. There he met a woman, Vivien Stern, who has been working at Amnesty International for many years. They were visiting prisons to protect the rights of prisoners,” Shambilov told The Astana Times.
A group of criminal justice and human rights activists founded the organisation in 1989 to ensure fair and effective criminal justice system, build a …

France denies Iraq has yet asked for money to try jihadist fighters

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PARIS (Reuters) - France's foreign ministry denied on Thursday a report that it had been asked by Iraqi authorities to pay up to $2 million per fighter for Baghdad to deal with French jihadists transferred from Syria to Iraq.
The ministry added that it respected Baghdad's sovereignty in judging foreign fighters.
Citing several unidentified sources, French daily newspaper Le Figaro reported on June 7 that Iraq had asked Paris for $1 million for each foreign jihadist sentenced to death and $2 million for those given long-term sentences.

RELATED | Iraq offers to commute death sentences of French IS members for 'millions of euros'
The article echoed other media reports that Baghdad has been seeking some $2 billion in compensation for dealing with hundreds of suspected Islamic State fighters held by Kurds in northeastern Syria, where there is no legal framework to deal with them.
"We have not received any request to this effect," French foreign ministry spokeswoma…