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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

UN rights experts call on Iran to halt execution of second juvenile offender in as many weeks

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GENEVA (16 January 2018) – UN human rights experts* have appealed to Iran to halt the execution of Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi, who was 15 when he was sentenced to death. He is due to be executed on Wednesday [Jan. 17], less than two weeks after the execution of another juvenile offender.
“The Iranian authorities must immediately halt the execution of this juvenile offender and annul the death sentence against him and afford him a fair trial in compliance with their international obligations,” the experts said. “This planned execution represents a flagrant disregard for international human rights law, which is all the more shocking given the most recent execution of another juvenile offender.”
Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday for a crime that he was convicted of committing at the age of 15. He was sentenced to death in 2014 after being convicted of murder for the fatal stabbing of a man during a fight. In sentencing him to death, the court cited an exper…

U.S.: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with clerk hires, signals desire to outlast Trump

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(CNN) - Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg marks her 25th anniversary on the Supreme Court this year, and the cultural icon known as the "Notorious RBG" recently signaled that she intends to stay at least through 2020 by hiring law clerks for at least two more terms.
Ginsburg, who turns 85 in March, would have to stay another decade to near the record of William O. Douglas, who served the longest at 36 years. But Ginsburg has already distinguished herself among justices for an intriguing second act, the product of pop culture passion.
If Democrat Hillary Clinton had won the presidency in 2016, liberal Ginsburg would likely have announced her retirement by this spring. Instead the justice who made her name as a women's rights lawyer in the 1970s apparently is not counting on leaving the stage any time soon.
The law clerk news, reported by Above the Law, triggered a tweet storm through the weekend, some of which included links to a classic 2016 Saturday Night Live "Gins-bur…

Antonin Scalia Liked Trump's Candidacy — Is Anyone Surprised?

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Notorious homophobe Antonin Scalia was reportedly intrigued by the candidacy of Donald Trump and spoke favorably of him for president, reports the Wall Street Journal in a not-so-suprising revelation. 
The Supreme Court justice known for his unvarnished dissent considered Trump “refreshing,” according to Bryan Garner, the author of a new book about Scalia, Nino and Me
“Justice Scalia thought it was most refreshing to have a candidate who was pretty much unfiltered and utterly frank,” Garner told the Wall Street Journal. He apparently made the comments in the last months before his death in February 2016.
The feeling was mutual, with Trump promising on the campaign trail to appoint a justice “in the mold” of the late justice. 
Trump went onto appoint Neil Gorsuch, saying it was Scalia “whose image and genius was in my mind throughout the decision-making process."
Scalia isn’t known among LGBT people for genius. Instead, he’s known for defending a ban on an anti-discrimination l…

India: Execution of convicts: Let them die in peace and not in pain

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The Government has claimed that hanging is the most workable mode and lethal injection method is found to have failed on many occasions in different parts of the world, hence it is not as workable as hanging.
In a response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking abolition of executing death row convict by hanging the Supreme Court recently held that it was the prerogative of the Government to decide on modes of execution of convicts. Execution of convicts is provided under section 354(5) of Cr.P.C. 1973 which says, 'When any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he be hanged by the neck till he is dead.' The Court had asked the Centre to respond to a notice issued by the Court however, it had also said that the legislature could think of changing the law so that a convict facing death penalty dies in peace and not in pain.
The Government has claimed that hanging is the most workable mode and lethal injection method is found to have failed on many …

Iran: Execution of 8 Prisoners During the Uprising in Order to Intensify the Atmosphere of Intimidation

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Simultaneous with the nationwide uprising of the Iranian people and in order to intimidate the people, the mullahs' regime's executioners executed 8 young prisoners in various cities in the period of January 1 to January 11.
On Thursday, January 11, 2 prisoners were executed publicly in Salmas and Qazvin. 
The prisoner executed in Salmas suffered from mental illness. 
The young man executed in Qazvin Prison was on death row for 8 years.
On January 8, 2 prisoners were executed in Sari and on January 4; 2 other prisoners were executed in Gohardasht, Karaj. Amir Hossein Pour Jafar, 1 of the executed, was 16 years old at the time of committing alleged crime. 
On January 2, a prisoner was executed in Dizelabad prison in Kermanshah, and the day before, a 22-year-old youth was executed in Mashhad Central Prison.
These executions are taking place while 8,000 young people are arrested during the first 2 weeks of the uprising of the Iranian people and are in grave conditions. 
The resp…

Lawmakers will debate returning death penalty to Iowa

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Bringing the death penalty back to Iowa likely will get debated but probably not approved during the 2018 legislative session, key lawmakers say.
Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he plans to assign a subcommittee to take up Senate File 335 with an eye on possibly expanding the provisions, but he is uncertain how far the issue may go in a session already loaded with more pressing priorities.
S.F. 335, introduced by a group of Senate Republicans last session, would restore capital punishment in Iowa for the 1st time since 1965 by establishing a 2-pronged process.
A jury or judge could convict a perpetrator of committing multiple class A offenses, and separately make a decision whether to execute the offender by lethal injection. Any death penalty conviction automatically would be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, and juvenile offenders would be exempted.
Proponents say it would allow capital punishment in cases where an adult kidnaps, rape…

Tuesday Becomes Execution Day in Egypt

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For the past 3 Tuesdays, Egypt has hanged civilians sentenced to death by military tribunals:
Jan. 9: 3 men were hanged. They had been convicted of rape and sentenced to die by a military tribunal in 2011.
Jan. 2: 4 men accused of being Islamic militants were hanged. They had been tried and sentenced to death by a military tribunal for an attack in 2015 outside a stadium that killed 3 military academy students.
Dec. 26: 15 men accused of being militants were hanged. A military tribunal had convicted them in November and sentenced them to death for an attack on a military checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula in 2013 in which one officer and 8 soldiers were killed.
The Sinai attack occurred amid violence that broke out across Egypt shortly after the military ousted Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who had been elected president. The day before that attack, security forces killed nearly 1,000 people while breaking up 2 Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo. No member of the secur…

Malaysia Upholds Death Sentences for 9 Filipinos Over 2013 Incursion

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Malaysian court on Monday upheld death sentences handed down to 9 men from the Philippines in connection with an 2013 incursion into the Malaysian part of Borneo island by Philippine fighters seeking to stake an ancient claim.
The incursion by the fighters from the southern Philippines into Malaysia's Sabah state sparked a month-long crisis and at least 27 people were killed when Malaysian troops backed by fighter jets eventually subdued the militants.
The conflict disrupted operations in Sabah's huge palm oil industry and at the time, raised concern that prolonged trouble could dampen investor interest in energy and infrastructure projects in the state.
The 9 were among fighters captured.
A 5-member Federal Court panel unanimously ruled that the death sentences were the most appropriate, upholding a decision by a lower court to increase the penalty from life sentences, according to the state news agency Bernama.
The court also upheld a lower court's decision to release 1…

Trinidad waits on British judges' death row ruling as murders soar

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Case will have repercussions for countries that still carry out executions and those that recognise jurisdiction of privy council
5 British judges will this week consider whether a prisoner who may be mentally ill should remain on death row after a Caribbean court convicted him of murdering another inmate.
Although Jay Chandler is unlikely to meet the hangman in Port of Spain, the case will have international repercussions for countries that still carry out executions and those that recognise the far-reaching jurisdiction of the UK's judicial committee of the privy council (JCPC).
The hearing in London on Tuesday comes amid concern over the spiralling murder rate in Trinidad and Tobago, which has reinvigorated calls for the death penalty to be enforced. Last year, 494 people were murdered in the Commonwealth state, which has not hanged anyone since 1999.
Trinidad is 1 of more than 30 overseas territories, dependencies and Commonwealth states that rely on the JCPC as their ultimate…

Harris County leads Texas in life without parole sentences as death penalty recedes

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Once known as the "capital of capital punishment," Harris County is now doling out more life without parole sentences than any other county in the state.
In the 12 years since then-Gov. Rick Perry signed the life without parole or "LWOP" bill into law, Harris County has handed down 266 of those sentences - nearly 25 percent of the state's total, according to data through mid-December obtained from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
"It's concerning, but this is like economics or engine performance, there's no free lunch," said Houston defense attorney Patrick McCann. "We have far fewer death cases than we used to. That's a tremendous win. But now we have a lot of LWOP sentences."
The county's reliance on the lengthiest sentence available in capital murder cases comes as the Houston area - and Texas as a whole - has shifted away from capital punishment. For the first time in more than 30 years, 2017 saw no new death se…