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"And you're told it's time to die": A Personal Contribution to the 2021 World Day Against the Death Penalty

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The following text is excerpted from  Death Row Diary , by William Van Poyck. William Van Poyck -- who maintained his innocence -- was executed by the state of Florida on June 12, 2013.  The 58-year-old, convicted of the 1987 murder of Glades Correctional Institution guard Fred Griffis outside a West Palm Beach doctor’s office, offered his views on everything from prison food to movies to the blood lust of politicians who support the death penalty via letters he posted online with the help of his sister.  After his conviction, Van Poyck, with a reform school education, authored three books, one of which won first-place honors in the memoir category in Writer’s Digest 2004 Self-Published Book Awards.  Locked up with what the courts have deemed the worst of the worst, Van Poyck opened the doors to a secret world few can imagine... The following piece is excerpted from William Van Poyck’s dispatches written during the last two years prior to his own execution. "Robert Waterhouse was

USA | Lethal injection could return to South Carolina if push for drug company shield law is successful

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South Carolina’s prisons director and a Republican lawmaker say they will renew their push next year to pass a law that would shield the identities of drug companies selling the state ingredients for the lethal injection cocktail.  If they’re successful, South Carolina could potentially buy lethal injection drugs for the first time since 2016 and start carrying out executions again for the first time in more than a decade.  Currently, South Carolina’s Department of Corrections can’t buy the necessary drugs to carry out a lethal injection, Director Bryan Stirling said. In the last decade, drug companies stopped selling the drugs necessary to carry out the lethal injection to prison systems because they didn’t want their businesses linked to executions.  In response to the shortage, the Legislature changed South Carolina’s execution law so that executions could be carried out by electric chair or firing squad. The state Supreme Court has halted all executions until the state finishes ren

Syria | At least 24 executed for deliberately starting wildfires

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State news agency said at least 24 people were executed in Syria on Wednesday, where the death penalty remains legal The Syrian government executed dozens of people on Wednesday for deliberately starting wildfires that ravaged parts of the country last year. A statement from Syria's justice ministry said those executed were charged with "committing terrorist acts that led to the death and damage to state infrastructure and public and private property through the use of flammable material". Sana state media agency said at least 24 people were executed in Syria on Wednesday, where the death penalty remains legal. Meanwhile, 11 others were sentenced to hard labour for life, four to temporary penal labour, and five minors were handed prison sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years over similar charges.  Their identities were not disclosed, and no details were provided on where and how the executions took place.  Rising temperatures Several Middle East countries, including Syria,

Intellectually Disabled Alabama Death-Row Prisoner Appeals Denial of Stay of Execution, Arguing Designation of Lethal Injection Violated Americans With Disabilities Act

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An intellectually disabled Alabama death-row prisoner has appealed a federal district court ruling that clears the way for his execution on October 21, 2021. On October 17, a federal district court judge denied for a 2nd time Willie B. Smith III’s claim that putting him to death by lethal injection violates his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Lawyers for Smith on October 19, 2021 filed a motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to stay his scheduled execution so he can appeal the district court’s decision. Smith’s motion “seek[s] to prohibit the State of Alabama from executing him in any manner other than with nitrogen hypoxia.” Judge Emily Marks’ over-the-weekend ruling on October 17, 2021, comes 2 days after the circuit court reversed her prior holding that Smith lacked standing to file a claim under the ADA. A unanimous panel of the appeals court vacated that ruling on October 15, 2021 and directed Marks to address Smith’s ADA claim on its

India | 62.2% death row prisoners diagnosed with at least one mental illness

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A study on the mental illness and intellectual disability among death row prisoners has shown that over 62 per cent had at least one mental illness, half of them contemplated suicide in jail and experienced adverse childhood and traumatic life experiences. Project 39A, a criminal justice program at the National Law University Delhi, conducted a study on 88 death row prisoners, three female, and 85 male, and their families across Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh. The findings of the study titled "Deathworthy: A mental Health Perspective of the Death Penalty" presented empirical data on mental illness and intellectual disability among death row prisoners in India and the psychological consequences of living on death row. The report which was released after five years of research also established correlations between conditions of incarceration and ill-health. [ I don't need 5 years of research to correlate incarceration on death row and ill health/

Considering Tsarnaev's Fate: Death, Or Life In Solitary Confinement

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The United States Supreme Court is facing, yet again, the controversial question of the death penalty. This time, the issue arises in a high-profile case coming out of the District of Massachusetts: the prosecution of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for participating, with his older brother Tamerlan (who died in a shootout with police), in the bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line that killed three people and injured more than 260 others. The jury recommended that the judge sentence him to death, which District Court Judge George O’Toole did. However, on July 31, 2020, the Court of Appeals, while upholding the guilty verdict, vacated the death penalty on the ground that Judge O’Toole had failed to sufficiently question the jurors about their knowledge of highly publicized aspects of the crime. As a result, Tsarnaev will spend the rest of his life in a federal “supermax” prison, probably the one in Florence, Colo. — provided that the Supreme Court does not step in to reverse the First Circuit a

Florida | Parkland Massacre Shooter Nikolas Cruz Pleads Guilty—But Could Still Get Death Penalty

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A jury will recommend whether he should be sentenced to life imprisonment or death for the rampage that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Jury selection for the penalty phase will begin Jan 4, 2022.  The former student who waged a deadly attack against his classmates and teachers in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the premeditated murder of 17 people and the attempted murder of 17 others, leaving his fate — either spending his life in prison or facing execution — in the hands of a jury. The 34 guilty pleas were enumerated in a somber courtroom filled with the families of those who were killed and injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. The community had braced for perhaps a monthslong trial but now soon faces what could be a grisly penalty phase as the state seeks to put the former student, Nikolas Cruz, to death. Mr. Cruz, wearing a blue shirt under a black sweater vest, pleaded guilty after the judge read a

Across Africa, major churches strongly oppose LGBTQ rights

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In Ghana, home to a diverse array of religions, leaders of major churches have united in denouncing homosexuality as a “perversion” and endorsing legislation that would, if enacted, impose some of the harshest anti-LGBTQ policies in Africa. In Nigeria, the umbrella body for Christian churches depicts same-sex relationships as an evil meriting the lengthy prison sentences prescribed under existing law. And in several African countries, bishops aligned with the worldwide United Methodist Church are preparing to join an in-the-works breakaway denomination so they can continue their practice of refusing to recognize same-sex marriage or ordain LGBTQ clergy. In the United States, Western Europe and various other regions, some prominent Protestant churches have advocated for LGBTQ inclusion. With only a few exceptions, this hasn’t happened in Africa, where Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran leaders are among those opposing such inclusion. “The mainstream churches — all of them —

Texas | Texarkana man indicted for capital murder in 11-month-old’s death

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A Texarkana man accused of beating his girlfriend’s 11-month-old son to death has been indicted for capital murder by a Bowie County grand jury. Joshua Lowe, 28, is accused of causing the death of Javontae Neeley. The baby’s mother, Christy Wedgeworth, 24, was indicted Thursday for injury to a child by omission in Javontae’s death and injury to a child by omission involving injuries suffered by her 4-year-old daughter.  Lowe was indicted for first-degree injury to a child in connection with injuries he allegedly inflicted on Javontae in the days before his death and for third-degree injury to a child for alleged physical abuse of Javontae’s 4-year-old sister. According to probable cause documents, Javontae was unresponsive when he was driven in a private vehicle to St.Michael’s Hospital on July 11.  The child’s injuries allegedly did not fit with Lowe’s claim that the boy choked on a hot dog. In an interview with Texarkana, Texas, police, Lowe allegedly claimed he dropped Javontae on t

Texas | Former Nurse Convicted Of Capital Murder In Deaths Of 4 Heart Patients

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TYLER, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A Texas jury convicted a former nurse Tuesday, Oct. 19 of capital murder in the deaths of four patients who died after prosecutors say he injected them with air following heart surgeries. The Smith County jury deliberated for about an hour before finding William George Davis, of Hallsville, guilty of capital murder involving multiple victims. Prosecutors planned to seek the death penalty during the sentencing phase, which is scheduled to start Wednesday. Davis, 37, was accused of injecting air into the four patients’ arteries after they underwent heart surgery at the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler in 2017 and 2018. During recovery from their surgeries, the four — John Lafferty, Ronald Clark, Christopher Greenway and Joseph Kalina — suffered unexplained neurological problems and died. During the trial, Dr. William Yarbrough, a Dallas-area pulmonologist and professor of internal medicine, explained to the jury how injecting air into the a

USA | How Mental Illness Law Is Changing Ohio Death Row

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A new Ohio law prohibiting the execution of people who had severe mental illness at the time of their crime has begun seeing its first implementations. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in January signed the bill into law covering killers diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or delusional disorder when they committed their offenses. Earlier this year, judges removed inmates in Butler and Franklin counties from death row after their attorneys successfully argued they met the mental illness criteria under the law. And earlier this month, the law was invoked in a state Supreme Court decision upholding the death sentence of a man who killed four relatives in 2017, including an 8-year-old boy. WHAT ARE THE LAW'S ORIGINS? Whether mentally ill people should be eligible for death sentences has long been debated. Ohio law already prohibited executions if an offender, “because of a mental disease or defect, lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminali