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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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Excerpted from  Death Row Diary , by William Van Poyck. 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 Van Poyck’s dispatches written during the last two years before his own execution: "Robert Waterhouse was scheduled for execution at 6:00pm this

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

Florida Exoneree Robert DuBoise Sues Tampa Police Alleging Fabricated Evidence Sent Him to Death Row

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Death-row exoneree Robert DuBoise is suing the City of Tampa, four Tampa police officers, and the forensic odontologist who falsely testified against him, alleging that they fabricated evidence that led to his wrongful conviction and death sentence.  DuBoise was exonerated in August 2020 after a Conviction Integrity Unit reviewed his case and new DNA evidence excluded him as the perpetrator of the rape and murder for which he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death 37 years earlier.  DuBoise’s conviction was based on junk-science bite-mark evidence and false testimony from a prison informant. DuBoise’s attorney, Dan Marshall of the Human Rights Defense Center, said, “This case is a prime example of what can go wrong when the police do not use proper procedures. An innocent man goes to jail for decades.” The lawsuit alleges that four officers who were involved in the original investigation conspired with Dr. Richard Souviron, the forensic odontologist, to present fabricated evid

Iran | Man Executed in Amol Prison, Baluchi Executed in Zahedan, 3 Executed on Drug Charges in Zanjan

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Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO); October 18, 2021: Hossein Hedayati who was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, has been executed in Amol Prison. According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed in Amol Prison on the morning of October 2. His identity has been established as 32-year-old Hossein Hedayati who was sentenced to qisas for murder. Informed sources told Iran Human Rights: “Hossein Hedayati was accused of committing murder during a mass fight. But according to those that knew him, someone else had committed the murder but everyone testified against Hossein. At the time of writing, his execution has not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran. According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty, at least 211 of the 267 people executed in 2020 were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for "premeditated murder." As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary

Indonesia | Abolition of the death penalty: a civil society campaign

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The campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, launched by civil society and embraced by Christian Churches and organizations, is intensifying in Indonesia. Several Indonesian civil society organizations have called on the government to remove the death penalty from the country's legal system, noting that there is evidence that "this form of legal murder is capable of deterring people from committing crimes". Furthermore, according to groups committed to protecting human rights, there is a high risk of an unjust sentence that could deprive even an innocent person of life.  However, despite the pandemic, the Indonesian judiciary continues to impose the death penalty (mainly for cases related to drug trafficking) with evidence that is evaluated in "teleconference": this is a system that jeopardizes the conduct of the process in a fair and equitable manner, the organizations detect.  According to the data collected by the supervisory body on "Imparsial&q

USA | Divided Federal Appeals Court Reinstates Death Sentence for Texas Mother of Child Who May Have Died in Accidental Fall

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Continuing an unparalleled pattern of rulings adverse to Texas death-row prisoners, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has reinstated the conviction and death sentence of a mother convicted of killing her two-year-old daughter in what, the defense has argued, was actually an accidental fall. In a 10-7 ruling issued a on February 9, 2021, the en banc court of appeals reversed a 2019 ruling by a unanimous three-judge panel of the same court, which had granted Melissa Lucio a new trial. The panel had ruled that Lucio’s right to present a “complete defense” had been violated at trial when the trial court excluded two expert witnesses from testifying on her behalf. A University of Houston Law Center study published in April 2020 found that the Texas federal court rulings on behalf of death-row prisoners had become “vanishingly rare.” The study found that only one of the 151 Texas capital habeas corpus petitioners sentenced to death this century who had completed federal