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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…

USA: The Justice Department boosts lethal injection in a big way

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The Office of Legal Counsel offered more cause for concern last week that politics is playing an undue role at the Justice Department. The office, which is charged with providing the executive branch neutral legal advice, issued an opinion that the Food and Drug Administration has no authority to regulate drugs used in lethal injection.
The OLC opinion was clearly designed to break through the legal logjam that has prevented states from using lethal injection drugs in executions — and it uses Evel Kneivel-style logical leaps to get there.
Lethal injections, such as the three-drug cocktail sodium thiopental, have become the primary method of execution in the United States. Of the 292 executions in the last 10 years, 289 have employed such chemicals.
U.S. drug manufacturers, not wanting their products to be associated with executions, stopped making thiopental 10 years ago, forcing states to acquire the killing drugs overseas. This move has generated legal trouble, however, as the Food…

Oklahoma 'getting closer' to acquiring device necessary to carry out executions

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Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said Wednesday the agency is “getting closer every day” to acquiring a device needed to resume the death penalty, though there’s still no firm date for executions to begin again.
Since announcing last year it will replace lethal injection with “nitrogen hypoxia,” a process which in theory painlessly suffocates an unconscious person, Oklahoma has been unable to procure a device necessary to carry out such an execution.
In March, Okla­homa Attorney General Mike Hunter told the state’s District Attorney’s Council those difficulties meant “we may and in fact we are likely to look to a state manufacturer to develop the machine.”
Hunter said it would take a device that could regulate the introduction of nitrogen through a tube and into an airtight mask over the face of the to-be-executed inmate.
Allbaugh told The Frontier on Wednesday while DOC doesn’t yet have someone to make the device, he is sure Oklahoma Correctional Industries w…

Indonesian court sentences French drug smuggler to death

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Mataram (Indonesia) (AFP) -- An Indonesian court sentenced Frenchman Félix Dorfin to death for drug smuggling on Monday, in a shock verdict after prosecutors asked for a 20-year jail term.
Dorfin, 35, was arrested in September carrying a suitcase filled with about three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of drugs including ecstasy and amphetamines at the airport in Lombok, a holiday island next to Bali where foreigners are routinely arrested on drugs charges.
Indonesia has some of the world's strictest drug laws -- including death by firing squad for some drug traffickers and it has executed foreigners in the past.
While prosecutors had not asked for the death penalty, Indonesian courts have been known to go beyond their demands.
"After finding Félix Dorfin legally and convincingly guilty of importing narcotics ... (he) is sentenced to the death penalty," presiding judge Isnurul Syamsul Arif told the court.
He cited Dorfin's involvement in an international drug syndicate and th…

Alabama, the pro-‘life’ state that loves the death penalty

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Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, May 18, 2019. I trust that all my fellow Americans of Norwegian descent had a wonderful Syttende Mai (pronounced something like “SOOT-in my”). Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.
Michael Brandon Samra might have briefly hoped his life would be spared the day before Alabama executed him on Thursday. For it was then, on Wednesday, that the only official with the unilateral authority to grant the convicted murderer a reprieve declared “every life” — really, every life — to be a sacred gift from God.
But as we can almost always infer from the statements of anti-abortion hardliners, it’s really the “lives” of blastocysts, embryos and fetuses that are valued the most — or at least used disingenuously to pass laws meant to kick the issue of abortion up to the Supreme Court. In a piece posted after Gov. Kay Ivey signed her state’s flagrantly unconstitutional criminalization of nearly all abortions, editorial writer Scott Martell…

Ex-CIA Deputy Director Douglas Wise says ISIS’ ‘Beatles’ should be executed in Iraq, not extradited to UK

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JIHADI John's ISIS 'Beatles' pals should be hanged in Iraq or Syria instead of being allowed back into Britain, a former CIA agent has said.
Ex-spy chief Douglas Wise said Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh - captured by Kurdish forces in 2018 - should be executed not extradited.
The British pair were high-ranking members of Mohammed Emwazi's 'Beatles' execution squad.
He told the Mail on Sunday: "You'd have defence attorneys who would be making this a spectacle, the prosecution making it a media spectable... it would just be horribly bad for Britain and particularly for the family members of the victims.
"Kurdish justice is a great judicial system when it comes to Arab extremists.
"Or turn them over to the Iraqi government - they'll hang them."
Let them hang in Iraq or in Syria
Masked executioner Jihadi John - real name Mohammed Emwazi - was responsible for taking part in the executions of seven western hostages and 22 Syrians i…

New Hampshire: Just two votes away from death penalty repeal

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New Hampshire has debated repeal of the death penalty since Gov. Badger called for its abolition in 1834. This year, if House and Senate vote tallies hold during upcoming override votes, repeal will become a reality.
In 2019, bipartisan coalitions in the House and Senate passed a death penalty repeal bill by veto-proof (66%-plus) margins. Gov. Chris Sununu then made good on his promise to once again veto the legislation that would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Death penalty repeal has passed the Legislature three times, in 2000, 2018 and 2019, only to fall to the respective veto pens of Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Sununu, so if repealing the death penalty is important to you, now is the time to reach out to your state representatives and senators.
The New Hampshire House has signaled that it may vote as early as this Thursday to override the governor’s veto and if does, we strongly encourage representatives to override the veto by o…

Lindsay Sandiford, 62, on Bali death row for 6 years, 'just wants to die'

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A British gran who faces being shot for drug smuggling now just wants to die, according to a notorious killer she befriended in jail.
Lindsay Sandiford, 62, has spent six long years on death row after being caught with a £1.6million haul of cocaine in Indonesia.
She has busied herself by knitting items to sell to raise cash for her legal appeals – and has even taught the gentle craft to other inmates crammed in the sweltering prison.
However now she is said to have become increasingly withdrawn and told pals, including US “suitcase murder” inmate Heather Mack, 23, she has had enough.
Friends believe she is now resigned to the long-delayed ­execution by firing squad going ahead – and are fearful about what might happen if it does not.
Mack said Sandiford – who she claimed developed “maternal ­feelings” for her inside Bali’s Kerobokan Prison – has become more and more reclusive.
She told the Sunday Mirror: “I am friends with Lindsay but she has been difficult to speak to recently.
“She…

Nashville attorney: Donnie Johnson's execution gives “more evidence” of lethal injection problems

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Thursday's execution of Donnie Johnson raises more questions about how the state carries out lethal injections, according to Nashville attorney David Raybin, who helped craft Tennessee's death penalty law.
Johnson was executed for killing his wife, Connie, in 1984. With Johnson's execution, Tennessee has now carried out 4 executions within a year, while the death penalty has been put on hold in other states.
Raybin reviewed media witness statements at a press conference held following Johnson's execution.
"This is more evidence to show that the lethal injection does produce some prolonged consciousness," Raybin said. "The question of whether it's painful or not is a different issue, but certainly the person was not unconscious."
Raybin says he knows many Tennesseans feel that death row inmates should in fact suffer as the death penalty is being carried out -- they are convicted killers, after all. But Raybin says revenge is not the point of the…