Texas | A Dangerous Man. At 18, Billy Joe Wardlow took a man’s life. Nearly 30 years later, the state still wants his.

Like any place humans gather, death row has a culture. Billy Wardlow says it's different in many ways from general population. One is in how new inmates are treated. "In [general population], the guys around you would try to find some way to exploit you," Wardlow said. "Death row, with a few exceptions, will often extend a hand of friendship to the 'new boot' so they can get on their feet ... Most of us get together and let each other know what we can send to the new guy."
One of the cherished myths of those who support the death penalty is that it is reserved for the “worst of the worst,” those beyond redemption.
Wardlow typically sends writing materials, food, clothes, and hygiene products. Recently, after receiving some of these items, a new inmate asked Wardlow what he owed him. "I told him to remember how guys helped him when he saw someone else new," Wardlow said. "Pay it forward, as the saying goes."
Sending gifts is one thin…

Belarus | FIDH asks to allow Vice President Stefanovich to consider a petition for pardon of the Kostev brothers

The following story has been Google translated from Belarusian. Read the originalhere.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has appealed to the Pardon Commission under the President of the Republic of Belarus to invite Vice President and human rights activist Valyantsin Stefanovich to a meeting to consider the pardon petition of brothers Ilya and Stanislav Kostev .
The possibility of the presence of representatives of state bodies, public associations and mass media at the sittings of the commission is enshrined in Clause 9 of the Regulations on the Procedure for Pardoning Convicts, Exempting from Criminal Liability Persons Assisting in Disclosure and Elimination of Consequences of Crimes approved by Presidential Decree99.1 250. In addition, paragraph 5 of the Regulation stipulates that the opinion of public organizations may be taken into account when considering a pardon application.
FIDH is one of the leading international human rights organizations and one of the f…

Singapore | Woodlands double-murder: Ex-property agent was provoked and had depression, says defence

A former property agent killed his pregnant wife and four-year-old daughter because he "lost it" after being provoked when his wife belittled him in front of the girl, his lawyer argued in the High Court on Friday (July 3).
In arguing that Teo Ghim Heng, 44, should be found guilty of culpable homicide instead of murder, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam said his client snapped as a result of his depression and the "grave and sudden provocation".
But Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Han Ming Kuang argued that the methodical manner in which Teo strangled his wife and daughter in January 2017 showed that he did not lose self-control.
Moreover, Teo's daughter was playing with her toys and watching TV at the time and had clearly not provoked him, the DPP said, in response to the defence's argument that the girl was "an active participant in the provocation" as she witnessed her father's shame.
The DPP also argued there was no objective evidence to corroborate …

France | Remains of 500 people executed by guillotine in French Revolution may be buried in walls of listed Paris monument

Bones fragments were discovered in the walls of the Chapelle Expiatoire, Paris
The remains of up to 500 people executed by guillotine in the French Revolution could be buried in the walls of a Paris monument, experts believe.  
Bone fragments were discovered in the walls of the Chapelle Expiatoire which is a classified monument in Paris. 
Archeologist Philippe Charlier examined the monument's walls with a small camera inserted through the stones, The Guardian reported. He said there was earth mixed with bone fragments.  
The monument is dedicated to King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who were executed at the Place de la Révolution before being formally buried at the Basilica of St Denis
French authorities called in an archeologist, who inserted a camera through the stones in the walls, so they didn't damage the building's foundations. 
The chapel's administrator Aymeric Peniguet de Stoutz had noticed anomalies in the walls between the columns of the lower chapel.


USA | Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Is Trying to Get off Death Row

In December 2019, Dzhokhar’s lawyers argued that the 26-year-old’s death penalty sentence should be overturned on the grounds that their client didn’t receive a fair trial. 
The appeal states that the trial should not have been held in Boston due to intense media coverage surrounding the case and claims there were multiple errors in jury selection.
The former nursing student’s legal team also asserted that the judge improperly excluded evidence demonstrating that Tamerlan was the clear mastermind behind the bombings and Dzhokhar had acted under his influence.
The appeal process could take years and effectively stall any plans for an execution. But according to Bob Hood, the former warden of the prison where Dzhokhar is being held, life in solitary confinement is far worse than death.
“If you really look for punishment and retribution, you’re better off with him going to the supermax for the rest of his life,” he told the Boston Herald following Dzhokhar’s appeal. “It’s way worse than…

The U.S. is Set to Execute a Man with Schizophrenia and Alzheimer's. He Won't Even Know Why | Opinion

On July 15, the federal government plans to execute Wesley Purkey, a 68-year-old man with multiple brain disorders, including Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. 
The law is clear. Under the Constitution, an execution can only be carried out when the prisoner understands why he is being executed. 
Mr. Purkey believes his death is punishment, not for his crime, but for his frequent complaints against prison officials over prison conditions. In a lawsuit filed last November, Mr. Purkey's attorneys point to evidence of decades of delusional behavior and rapidly progressing dementia. An expert who examined Mr. Purkey concluded that his dementia and mental illness have progressed to the point that he is incapable of rationally understanding the reason for his execution. Though that is what the law requires, the Government is rushing forward with his execution, while withholding critical medical records and without giving the courts time to hold a hearing.
Institutionalized on a…

USA | Pandemic and Continuing Historic Decline Produce Record-Low Death Penalty Use

New death sentences and executions were at historic lows in the first half of 2020, the Death Penalty Information Center reported in its 2020 Mid-Year Review. 
The report, released July 2, attributed the record-low numbers to the combined effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and a continuing broad national decline in the use of capital punishment.
The report indicated that, even before the pandemic, the U.S. was poised for its 6th consecutive year with 50 or fewer new death sentences and 30 or fewer executions. 
At the midpoint of 2020, there have been only 12 new death sentences, imposed in 7 states, and 6 executions carried out by 5 historically high-execution states. Only Florida (with 4) and California (with 3) had imposed more than a single new death sentence, and only Texas (with 2) had carried out more than one execution.
Colorado became the 22nd U.S. state to abolish the death penalty, and Governor Jared Polis commuted the death-sentences of the 3 prisoners remaining …

Oklahoma's attorney general says death row inmates can apply for commutation

Oklahoma's attorney general believes death row inmates are eligible to receive a commutation hearing, according to a letter his office issued Tuesday that refers to a previous attorney general opinion on the matter.
Earlier this month the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted to ask Attorney General Mike Hunter if death row inmates can seek a commutation hearing in addition to a clemency hearing, which is scheduled in the final weeks before a scheduled execution date.
Hunter's office said it had not yet received the request from the board, but preemptively sent a letter on Tuesday saying that issue had already been settled by former Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who "found that the Pardon and Parole Board has the authority to recommend, and the Governor has the authority to grant, commutations of the sentence of Oklahoma inmates" sentenced to death, according to Hunter's letter, which was obtained by The Frontier.
Hunter's letter comes on the same day The …

California | 2 More San Quentin Death-Row Inmates Die Of Apparent COVID-19 Complications

SAN QUENTIN (CBS SF) — Two death row inmates at San Quentin State Prison died Friday at outside hospitals from what appear to be complications related to COVID-19.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation identified the inmates as Scott Thomas Erskine, 57, and Manuel Machado Alvarez, 59. 
Erskine had been on death row since 2004 for the murder of two young boys in San Diego, while Machado had been on death row since 1989 for a string of crimes in Sacramento including rape and murder.
There have been two other deaths of condemned inmates deaths amid an exploding number of coronavirus cases at the prison.
Richard Stitely, 71, was found unresponsive in his cell last week on June 29 and was confirmed Monday to have tested positive for COVID-19. 
He was sentenced for the 1990 rape and murder of a 47-year-old woman in Los Angeles County.
Joseph S. Cordova, 75, was found dead in his cell on July 1. 
He had been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of an eight-year-o…

Tennessee | Final Preparations Being Made For Execution Of Harold Wayne Nichols On Aug. 4

Final preparations are underway for the execution of Harold Wayne Nichols, who was convicted in Hamilton County Criminal Court of the rape and murder of Karen Pulley in 1988.
The execution is currently set for 7 p.m. on Aug. 4.
The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) is now accepting applications from recognized Tennessee news organizations to serve as statutorily required witnesses for the scheduled execution.
7 media witnesses and 2 alternates will be selected by the Tennessee Department of Correction during a drawing to be held at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.
The drawing will take place on Friday, July 17, at 9 a.m. (CST).
Nichols is now 59 and has long been on death row.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals last October ruled that Nichols, who was also convicted of the rape and assault of several other women, would remain on death row.
Nichols had appealed a decision of Judge Don Ash, who dismissed his post-conviction appeal.
Judge Ash ruled against Nichol…