2018 Death Penalty report: Saudi Arabia’s False Promise

With crown prince Mohammed bin Salman at the helm, 2018 was a deeply violent and barbaric year for Saudi Arabia, under his de facto leadership.
PhotoDeera Square is a public space located in front of the Religious Police building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in which public executions (usually by beheading) take place. It is sometimes known as Justice Square and colloquially called Chop Chop Square. After Friday prayers, police and other officials clear the area to make way for the execution to take place. After the beheading of the condemned, the head is stitched to the body which is wrapped up and taken away for the final rites.
This year execution rates of 149 executions, shows an increase from the previous year of three executions, indicating that death penalty trends are soaring and there is no reversal of this trend in sight.
The execution rates between 2015-2018 are amongst the highest recorded in the Kingdom since the 1990s and coincide with the ascension of king Salman to the t…

Oklahoma's struggle to purchase nitrogen death penalty equipment a possible issue for Alabama

After Alabama approved nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method last year, the biggest challenge seemed to be figuring out how to humanely carry out the death penalty with a never before used method of execution.
But another hurdle may loom for Alabama as Oklahoma — the first state to approve nitrogen as an execution method — struggles to obtain the equipment necessary to deliver the gas.
Matt Elliott, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, said attempts to purchase a gas delivery device have thus far been unsuccessful due to companies' fears of being associated with the death penalty. 
“There are some things out there that would perform the role we would need them to, but the manufacturers don’t want to sell them to us, because they don’t want the negative attention from the advocates and people who are against the death penalty,” Elliott said in a phone interview with the Montgomery Advertiser.
Alabama and Oklahoma are two of only three states that have passed leg…

Death Penalty Photography Documentary Project

The Ku Klux Klan rallying in support of a black man’s execution in Texas. The North Carolina death row warden wheeling a gurney into the execution chamber. Weeping family members at the moment of a loved one’s execution.
These are just a few of the images captured in Scott Langley’s chilling death penalty documentary photography project, which is the most comprehensive collection of original death penalty photographs available from one source.
The documentary includes execution vigils, inside an execution chamber, the hours leading up to an execution, portraits of exonerated death row prisoners, celebrities opposed to the death penalty, marches, demonstrations and candid emotional and prayerful moments in the context of the death penalty in the United States.
The project started in 1999 and continues today, providing images to publications, educational institutions and national organizations in the work to educate about capital punishment.
About the project
Executions in the United S…

Washington state: Senators vote to end state death penalty

The Senate passed a bill Friday to remove the death penalty from Washington state statute and replacing it with life in prison without parole.
Senate Bill 5339 passed with 28 in favor, 19 opposed, with senators Phil Fortunado, R-Auburn and Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, excused.
Republican senators Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake and Brad Hawkins R-Wenatchee, and sponsor Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla voted in support of the typically democratic bill. Democratic senators Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, Dean Takko, D-Longview, and Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequium voted against the bill.
The Senate passed a similar bill last year prior to the state Supreme Court declaring the death penalty as applied was racist and arbitrary. The bill was never brought to a vote in the House.
House Bill 1488 is the companion to the bill passed in the Senate and has yet to hear public testimony.
Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma, believes it is possible to create a death penalty that the Supreme Court would approve, saying the Sena…

Fabien Clain, French jihadist and 'voice of Paris attacks', reported killed in Syria

French jihadist Fabien Clain, who voiced a recording that claimed the 2015 Paris attacks for the Islamic State group, has been reported killed in Syria.
Security sources told French media an air strike on Wednesday killed Clain in Baghuz, the last pocket held by IS.
The US-led coalition fighting IS said it was trying to verify the reports.
Clain became known as the French voice of IS after the 2015 attacks that left 130 people dead.
RELATED | Paris attacks: What happened on the night
What is known about Wednesday's air strike?
It was carried out overnight by the US-led coalition, security sources told French media.
They said that Clain's brother and fellow jihadist, Jean-Michel, were seriously wounded in the strike.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly later tweeted (in French), that it was "possible" that Fabien Clain was killed.
Fabien Clain is believed to have gone to Syria in 2015.
Nearly 2,000 French citizens have fought for IS in Syria and Iraq since 2014, th…

Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo writes to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

Your Excellency
I am writing to plead for the lives of prisoners who may soon be put to death if executions resume in Sri Lanka.
More than four decades ago, your country stopped the implementation of this ultimate, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, becoming one of the few South Asian countries to do so. The death penalty is now only applied by a shrinking minority of countries around the world. In December 2018, Sri Lanka was among the 121 states that voted in favour of a resolution on the “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty” at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly. Only 35 states voted against the resolution.
Implementing the death penalty for drug-related offences is unlawful. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a state party, restricts the use of the death penalty – in countries that have not yet abolished it – to the “most serious crimes”, or intentional killing.

Malawi: ‘The hangman was too tired to hang me – three times’

On death row in Malawi, Byson Kaula was nearly executed three times - but on each occasion the hangman stopped work before hanging all the prisoners on his list. So he survived… until the country stopped executing people altogether.
Byson Kaula says jealous neighbours were responsible for him being found guilty of murder. It was 1992 and murder in those days carried a mandatory death sentence.
Brought up in a small village in southern Malawi, Byson had made enough money working in the gas industry in Johannesburg, South Africa, to return home and buy land. He employed five people and grew fruit, wheat, maize, and cassava.
"That is when my sad times began," he says.
Neighbours attacked one of his employees, Byson says, leaving him badly injured. The man couldn't walk without assistance, and while helping him get to the toilet - navigating steps that were slippery after heavy rain - Byson fell and dropped him. The man died later in hospital, and Byson - then in his 40s - w…

New Hampshire again considers death penalty repeal

New Hampshire lawmakers are once again considering a bill to repeal the death penalty, less than six months after failing to override Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of an identical measure.
The state hasn’t executed anyone since 1939, and the repeal bill would not apply retroactively to Michael Addison, who killed Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006 and is the state’s only death row inmate. But supporters of capital punishment argue that courts will see it differently.
“If you repeal the death penalty, I want you to understand that Michael Addison’s sentence will be commuted to life without parole, which would not be just and would send the wrong message to criminals when it comes to killing police officers in the state of New Hampshire,” former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte told the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.
Ayotte, a former attorney general, was the lead prosecutor in the Addison case. She reminded lawmakers that the shooting happened…

Fight to end capital punishment isn’t over, says Sister Helen Prejean

While some might say Sister Helen Prejean has experienced great success in her fight to abolish the death penalty, she believes she’s only helped make some strides in the battle.
After all, it’s hard to claim success when nearly 2,400 people remain on death row in the United States.
“I don’t see success at all, because the suffering and the torture is so terrible, as long as even one person is in that situation, and it’s legalized,” she said. “I know you can see we’ve made strides, (but) I would never talk about it in terms of success.”
It’s why the American nun from the Congregation of St. Joseph continues to fight for death row inmates. Her story was told in her book Dead Man Walking that became the 1995 film, garnering four Academy Award nominations and an Oscar for Susan Sarandon, who played Prejean.
Prejean is bringing her Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues… message to the Toronto area including a March 1 appearance at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ont., as part of i…

U.S. justices decline challenge by Arkansas judge barred from hearing death-penalty cases

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's attempt to regain jurisdiction over death-penalty cases ended Tuesday at the U.S. Supreme Court when the nation's justices declined to consider his challenge to the ruling that bars him from presiding over capital-murder proceedings.
Griffen, 66, had sued in federal court to regain that authority, but a U.S. district judge in Little Rock and then the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his arguments. He petitioned the Supreme Court to consider his case in December. In typical fashion, the federal justices' decision on Tuesday to reject him did not state a reason.
The seven justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court stripped Griffen in April 2017 of the authority to hear capital-murder cases or any litigation related to the death penalty. He then sued to overturn that ban.
The state justices did not state any reason for the decision, but the move came three days after Griffen, in his capacity as a Baptist minister, particip…

Taiwan: Court upholds death penalty for arsonist who killed 6

Weng Jen-hsien bought 20 liters of gasoline and waited until his family was celebrating Lunar New Year’s Eve together before he burst in and set them on fire
The Taiwan High Court yesterday upheld convicted arsonist Weng Jen-hsien’s (翁仁賢) death sentence.
Weng, 53, had twice previously been found guilty of killing six people, including his parents and three relatives.
Weng had shown no remorse for his crime and there was no likelihood of rehabilitation, the court said.
Weng was convicted of killing direct family members and relatives, which is punishable by death or life imprisonment under the Criminal Code.
Weng purchased 20 liters of gasoline, which he placed into bottles and plastic containers, and deliberately waited for a day until Lunar New Year’s Eve on Feb. 7, 2016, when the victims had scheduled a family gathering, an investigation found.
Weng ran into the house, doused his family members with gasoline and set them alight, it found.
Weng killed his parents, two cousins, a cous…