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Showing posts from November, 2007

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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

Calls in Sudan for Execution of British Teacher

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov. 30 — Hundreds of demonstrators in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, poured into the streets on Friday demanding the execution of a British teacher who was convicted of insulting Islam because her class of 7-year-olds named a teddy bear Muhammad.

The protesters, some carrying swords, screamed, “Shame, shame on the U.K.!” and “Kill her, kill her by firing squad.” They were calling for the death of Gillian Gibbons, the teacher who was sentenced on Thursday to 15 days in jail. Under Sudanese law, she could have spent 6 months behind bars and received 40 lashes.

Despite the display of outrage, witnesses said that many of the protesters were government employees who had been ordered to demonstrate, and that aside from a large gathering outside the presidential palace, most of Khartoum was quiet. Imams across the city did bring up the controversial case in sermons after Friday Prayers. But few called for violence.

“This woman gave an idol the name of Muhammad, which is not accepta…

U.S. Supreme Court to Address Discriminatory Jury Selection in Death Penalty Case

On Tuesday, Dec. 4, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Snyder v. Louisiana, a case involving a black defendant sentenced to death by an all-white jury after the prosecution used its peremptory strikes to exclude all of the qualified black jurors. During Allen Snyder’s 1996 trial for the murder of a man his estranged wife was dating, prosecutor James Williams of Jefferson Parish urged the all-white jury to sentence the defendant to death so that Snyder would not "get away with it" like O.J. Simpson. Simpson was acquitted of a highly publicized double homicide less than a year before. The defense challenged the selection of the jury as a violation of equal protection, but Snyder's conviction was upheld by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Texas death row inmate Thomas Miller-El because of the prosecution's racially discriminatory jury strikes. The Court not only looked at the credibility of the reasons th…

A Teddy Bear called Muhammad

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov. 29 — The British teacher in Sudan who let her 7-year-old pupils name a class teddy bear Muhammad was found guilty on Thursday of insulting Islam and sentenced to 15 days in jail and deportation.

Under Sudanese law, the teacher, Gillian Gibbons, could have spent six months in jail and been lashed 40 times.

“She got a very light punishment,” said Rabie A. Atti, a government spokesman. “Actually, it’s not much of a punishment at all. It should be considered a warning that such acts should not be repeated.”

British officials, meanwhile, were furious. As soon as the news broke that Ms. Gibbons had been convicted, the Foreign Office in London, which had called the whole ordeal “an innocent mistake,” summoned the Sudanese ambassador — for the second time in two days.

“We are extremely disappointed,” said Omar Daair, spokesman for the British Embassy in Khartoum, the capital.

Ms. Gibbons, 54, has been in jail since Sunday, and Mr. Daair said her sentence would include tim…

President Bush pardoned the annual Thanksgiving turkey

Seems President Bush today, in the annual pre-Thanksgiving ritual, pardoned two turkeys. I think we are now into the double digits if you consider the number of turkeys Bush has pardoned while serving as the leader of the most powerful nation's Executive Branch.

By contrast, during Bush's one and a half terms as Texas governor, he managed to pardon one human being who was on death row. Actually, it wasn't even a pardon -- it was a commutation. Henry Lee Lucas, who was about to be executed for a crime he did not commit, had his sentence commuted to life in prison. He died not too long afterwards.

For those who wonder just our far the Fourth Estate has fallen, check out this breathless coverage:

Press corps turns out to see lucky turkeys escape death

President Bush pardoned the annual Thanksgiving turkey Tuesday

The turkeys -- a primary and an alternate -- are named May and Flower

Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to name them Lunch and Dinner, Bush said

Pardoning of the turkeys …

Death chamber of secrets

(This is taken from the Huffington Post, and is written by Christopher Hill of the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project.)

"It never occurred to me when we set this up that we'd have complete idiots administering the drugs." So said Jay Chapman, the Oklahoma doctor who developed the infamous three-drug cocktail used by many states to execute people - the same concoction that is now under constitutional review before the U.S. Supreme Court.

As part of the secrecy surrounding the execution process, we do not really know who the people carrying out lethal injections are. But thanks to a recent lawsuit in Missouri, we know a little bit about one of these people. He is a doctor from Missouri called Dr. Doe. He has been barred from practice in two hospitals, been the subject of numerous malpractice lawsuits and has been forbidden by a federal judge from "participat[ing] in any manner, at any level, in the State of Missouri's lethal injection process." Dr. Doe'…
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Source : Charlie Hebdo du 28 novembre 2007

IRQO: Hassan Parhizkar is a homosexual Iranian threatened with being deported back to Iran

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IRQO is an international, non-profit, queer human rights organization based in Toronto, Canada with key workers in Europe and Iran. IRQO helps Iranian gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered refugees all over the world. We help when Iranian lesbians or gay men who are threatened with deportation back to Iran. We also help Iranian LGBTs (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) obtain asylum in friendly countries.
Iranian who are homosexuals are a uniquely identified group who are severelylooked down upon and subject to mistreatment and humiliation, including torture at the hands of the current Islamic Republic of Iran for their sexual orientation. Homophobia runs deep into the Iranian government policies and homosexuality is considered a criminal act, punishable by lashing, hanging, stoning, cutting in half by a sword, or other methods of torture. However, IRQO believes in a brighter future and would not let the hatred stop us from achieving our hopes of becoming useful members of society…

New Jersey poised to abolish the death penalty

New Jersey is leading the way in ending executions. Watch the news conference featuring Sister Helen Prejean and the New Jersey Speaker of the Assembly, Joseph Roberts Jr..

Foreseeable Risk: Lethal Injection and the Three-Drug Protocol

Since the Supreme Court’s decisions in Nelson v. Campbell and Hill v. McDonough, civil rights lawsuits across the country have uncovered information about the administration of lethal injection and have highlighted the risks inherent in lethal injection procedures as currently practiced. Litigation has revealed that most jurisdictions use the same three-drug protocol, even though it is well known that the second and third drugs put the inmate who is being executed at risk of consciously experiencing paralysis, suffocation, and excruciating pain if he is not adequately anesthetized by the first drug. The cases also have revealed that lethal injections frequently are performed by non-medical personnel who lack the training necessary to carry out an execution that does not violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” The absence of trained personnel exacerbates the foreseeable risks inherent in the three-drug protocol. Indeed, the risks associated wi…

Vietnam upholds death sentence

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- A court in southern Ho Chi Minh City upheld the death sentence against an Australian man of Vietnamese origin convicted of heroin trafficking, a court official said Thursday.

The death sentence was reaffirmed on Tony Manh, 40, of New South Wales, at the one-day trial at the city's People's Court of Appeals on Wednesday, said the court official, who declined to give his name citing policy.

"There was no new evidence to support the reduction of his death sentence," he said.

Manh was convicted of trafficking 0.948 kilograms (2 pounds) of heroin and sentenced to death in September.

He was arrested in March after security officers at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City found the drugs hidden on his body as he was about to board a plane to Sydney, Australia.

Source : The Associated Press

North Carolina Court Cites False Testimony and Official Misconduct in Granting New Trial to Death Row Inmate

Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin ruled that North Carolina death row inmate Glen Edward Chapman is entitled to a new trial based on ample evidence that he was wrongly convicted. Judge Ervin said that law enforcement officials withheld evidence, used false testimony, and misplaced or destroyed important documents that could have supported Chapman's innocence claim. The judge's order also revealed that Chapman's defense attorneys did not adequately represent him during his trial, and that expert testimony cast doubt that one of Chapman's alleged victims, Yvette Conley, was murdered at all. The testimony indicated that Conley may have died of a drug overdose. "The notion that a defendant can be put to death when no crime in fact occurred is troubling at best," wrote Judge Ervin after holding a series of evidentiary hearings examining Chapman's innocence claims.

Chapman was sentenced to death for the 1992 murders of Conley and Jean Ramseur. At first, prosecut…

Lethal Injections and the Overall Decline in the Death Penalty

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In a recent Newsweek article by Evan Thomas and Martha Brant compares the historical search for humane methods of execution with the current decline in the use of the death penalty in the U.S.:

The new reluctance to punish by killing is part of a historical trend. There was a time when death and torture were spectator sports, when crowds flocked to see prisoners drawn and quartered or beheaded. In some parts of the world, flogging and stoning are still public spectacles. But in the 19th century, supposedly "enlightened" states began looking for more-humane ways to serve final justice—to kill people without causing too much suffering to either the victims or their executioners. The authorities tried hanging, firing squads, electrocutions, gas chambers and, more recently, lethal injection. Each method was supposed to be an improvement over the last.

The article reflects on the recent challenge to lethal injection which is pending before the Supreme Court, posing the question o…

Flowers for life in Iran

To save the life of Pegah Emambakhsh (the Iranian lesbian the British Government wanted to deport to her death by stoning in Iran) Gruppo EveryOne - together with the Friends of Pegah Campaign - created a new kind of humanitarian campaign and invited all those who believe in a respect for human rights to send flowers to the prison where Pegah was being detained.

Thousands of bunches of flowers were delivered to the prison, putting a strain on the prison system and convincing the authorities to re-examine her case. Pegah is now waiting for her application for political asylum to be accepted. In Iran,however, the courts continue to sentence women, political activists, young people, free thinkers and homosexuals to death...

... There is a need to approach Ahmadinejad and the judges and tell them, in a peaceful but firm way, that life is sacred in every part of the world and according to all religions - that always invite the faithful to be compassionate.

It is for this reason that we are as…

IRAN. TWO PUBLICLY HANGED FOR MURDER, ROBBERY

November 14, 2007: Iran hanged two men convicted of murder in a western Kurdish province, a news agency reported. The student news agency ISNA said that Saeed Moradi and Hamid Fallahi were executed in the western province of Kermanshah.

Both had been sentenced to death for "armed robbery and murder," a capital crime in Iran. The pair were hanged in a square in the western city of Sahneh, the agency said. It gave no date for the execution.

Source: Today's Zaman, 15/11/2007

Former Texas Warden Reconsiders Executions

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Jim Willett was warden of the Walls Unit for 3 years. 

The executions were never easy, he says. "The hardest were the young fellows. You think, there's a young man who ruined someone's life and ruined his own, and he probably could have really been something."

He's witnessed so many executions, it's hard to remember them all. But certain memories stand out. There was the man who fought so hard he had to be restrained and carried convulsing to the death chamber. The one who'd done so many IV drugs the medical team had to shoot the lethal fluids through a vein in his leg. There was the man who asked to sing "Silent Night" as his final statement and expired in mid-verse, and the one from Dallas who followed up a heartfelt apology to the victim's family with an enthusiastic "How 'bout them Dallas Cowboys!"

Jim Willett is surrounded by such memories as director of the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville. From 1998 to 2001, three of th…

Iranian execution halted November 14, 2007

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has learned that the Iranian Chief Justice, Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, has nullified the impending death sentence of Mr. Makvan Mouloodzadeh, a 21-year old Iranian citizen found guilty of multiple counts of anal rape (ighab), allegedly committed when he was 13 years old. The Iranian Chief Justice described the death sentence to be in violation of Islamic teachings, the religious decrees of high-ranking Shiite clerics, and the law of the land.

"This is a stunning victory for human rights and a reminder of the power of global protest," said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC's executive director, who on November 5 sent a letter in Persian and English asking that Iranian authorities intervene to halt the execution.

The verdict in Mr. Mouloodzadeh's case was questionable from the outset. Although no one ever accused him of rape, the court declared otherwise. All parties involved in the case told the court that …

Penpals / Correspondants

NOM : Rachal

PRENOM : Rodney

NATIONALITÉ : Américaine

Rodney Rachal est actuellement à la recherche de correspondants:

My name is Rodney C. Rachal, I'm one of many death row inmates.

I was born April 29, 1970, I've been incarcerated for 9 1/2 years. I'm 5 feet 10 inches and 175 pounds.

Due to the fact that I'm very limited, I enjoy working out (exercising), listening to music such as R&B, Rap, Jazz, and even a little Country. Also, I enjoy reading and writing as much as my eyes will allow, there's no particular kind of book for my mind is open to all type's of books.

I'm interested in dinding a pen pal to correspond with, because once one begins to share that he/she begins to realize just how wonderful having a true friend can be.

Many have good intentions of being a true friend which is touching but good intentions are not tangible. A true friend is something very difficult to be, which I've learned, and I'm not saying that I've mastered this, but …

Gays should be hanged, says Iranian minister

Homosexuals deserve to be executed or tortured and possibly both, an Iranian leader told British MPs during a private meeting at a peace conference, The Times has learnt.

Mohsen Yahyavi is the highest-ranked politician to admit that Iran believes in the death penalty for homosexuality after a spate of reports that gay youths were being hanged.

President Ahmadinejad, questioned by students in New York two months ago about the executions, dodged the issue by suggesting that there were no gays in his country.

Britain regularly challenges Iran about its gay hangings, stonings and executions of adulterers and perceived moral criminals, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) papers show.

The latest row involves a woman hanged this June in the town of Gorgan after becoming pregnant by her brother. He was absolved after expressing his remorse. Britain said that this demonstrated the unequal treatment of men and women in law and breached Iran’s pledge to restrict the death penalty to the most s…

Barack Obama cites role in death penalty reform

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (AP) -- Barack Obama can honestly claim to have made a difference on a matter of life and death.

While an Illinois state senator, Obama was key in getting the state's notorious death penalty laws changed, including a requirement that in most cases police interrogations involving capital crimes must be recorded.

The changes enacted in 2003 reformed a system that had sent 13 people to death row, only to have them released because they were later determine to be innocent or had been convicted using improper methods.

"Without Barack's energy, imagination and commitment I do not believe the very substantial and meaningful reforms that became law in Illinois would have taken place," said author Scott Turow, a member of the state commission that recommended many of the changes.

Obama often cites his role in Illinois' death penalty debate as evidence that he can resolve thorny issues through compromise.

"We brought police officers and civil rights a…

CHINA. SEPARATISTS FACE DEATH PENALTY

November 12, 2007: A Chinese court has sentenced six “terrorists” to death or life imprisonment for separatist and terrorist activities, Xinhua reported.

The Intermediate People's Court of Kashgar in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, held the first-instance trial on Novembre 8 and handed down the death penalty to three people, suspended death sentences to two and ordered life imprisonment for the other.

The six, described as members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, were convicted of taking part in "separatist activities, illegally making explosives, and training up a terrorist camp" at a local court in the northwest Xinjiang region.

"In order to split the nation ... they carried out extreme religious activities and advocated holy war and established a terrorist training base," said the state media.

The six people were part of a "terrorist group" captured by the Chinese police during a gun battle last January in southern Xinjia…

Assembly to move to abolish death penalty

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The Associated Press - November, 9 2007

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) ­ The state Assembly will vote on Dec. 13 to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life without parole, the house's leader said Friday after meeting with the Roman Catholic nun of "Dead Man Walking" fame.

If approved by lawmakers and Gov. Jon S. Corzine, New Jersey would be the first state to legislatively abolish capital punishment since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976.

"The time has come," Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr. said after a breakfast meeting in his office with Sister Helen Prejean.

Roberts, D-Camden, called the death penalty "flawed public policy" that is costly, discriminatory, immoral and cruel.

"The consequences are irreparable if mistakes are made," he said.

Prejean said New Jersey's plan, if approved, will make the state a global leader in the fight against executions.

"This is such a special moment," Prejean said. "New Jer…

At the Death House Door

At the Death House Door



Director/Producer: Steve James, Peter Gilbert
Executive Producer: Gordon Quinn
Status: Production
In production for The Independent Film Channel...

At the Death House Door is the story of the wrongful execution of Carlos DeLuna and the Death House Chaplain, Pastor Carroll Pickett, who spent the last day of DeLuna's life with him. The feature documentary, currently in production, follows the remarkable career journey of Pickett, culminating in the story of DeLuna, a convict whose execution bothered Pickett more than any other. He firmly believed the man was innocent, and the film will track the investigative efforts of a team of Chicago Tribune reporters who have turned up evidence that strongly suggests he was. The documentary takes a very personal and intimate look at the death penalty in Texas, the first state to do lethal injection. Pickett was present for the first lethal injection in 1981.

At the Death House Door is a Kartemquin Films Production in associati…

Things are heating up in Texas

If you follow death penalty news, you know about the situation in Texas. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals -- well, more specifically, Presiding Judge Sharon Keller -- refused to allow a death penalty appeal to be filed 20 minutes after 5 p.m., and as a result an inmate was executed, even though his execution likely would have been stayed due to the lethal injection protocol challenge currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two developments since then are worth mentioning. First, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed to begin accepting emergency appeal applications via email. And second, the mainstream magazine Texas Monthly -- hardly a mouthpiece for the abolition movement -- is publishing a piece calling for Keller's impeachment. Here it is (hat tip, as usual, Steve Hall):

Impeach Sharon Keller!

Four hours before convicted murderer Michael Richard was executed by the State of Texas on September 25, his lawyers notified the Court of Criminal Appeals that, because of comp…

IRAN. SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS KURDISH JOURNALIST'S DEATH SENTENCE

November 9, 2007: Iran's Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence handed to Kurdish journalist Adnan Hassanpour for being an 'enemy of God'. The court referred the case of a second Kurdish journalist sentenced to death on the same charges, Hiwar Boutimar, to a tribunal of re-examination.

Boutimar and Hassanpour, who are cousins, were in July sentenced to death by an Iranian Revolutionary court. They wrote for the Kurdish-Farsi news magazine Asu (Waves) which was closed by the Iranian authorities in August 2005 following widespread unrest in Kurdish areas.

Hassanpour is an advocate of cultural rights for Iranian Kurds. Boutimar is an environmental activist.

Source: AKI, 09/11/2007

Botswana confirms hanging

November 5, 2007: the Botswana Department of Prisons and Rehabilitation confirmed the hanging of death row inmate Sepeni Thubisane Popo, the Mmegi Newspaper reported.

It was Botswana's 39th execution since independence from Britain in 1966. Mmegi quoted senior assistant commissioner Anthony Mokento as saying: 'It is true Popo was hanged.'

Popo was found guilty of murdering Boitshwarelo Balotlegi in Molepolole in 2004 to use his body for ritual purposes.

'Mokento would not reveal the number of people on death row in Botswana, but recent media reports say 'three or four people' are facing execution,' Mmegi said.

Officially, 'Botswana upholds the use of the death penalty in cases of premeditated murder where there are no extenuating circumstances'.

Source: South African Press Association, 06/11/2007

Iraq: 11 face imminent execution

November 8, 2007: According to the Iraqi news agency Aswat al-Iraq, 11 people in Iraq are facing imminent execution after the Court of Cassation upheld their death sentences, which will now be passed to the Presidential Council for ratification.

The only hope for the eleven is for the Presidential Council to refuse to ratify their sentences, or for the president to pardon them.

According to Aswat al-Iraq, the 11 have been convicted of various criminal offences including murder, murder followed by robbery, and kidnapping. They were sentenced to death by criminal courts in Baghdad, Basra, and in the provinces of Diwaniya, Dhi Qar and Ninewa. No further information is currently available.

Since the reintroduction of the death penalty in Iraq in August 2004, hundreds of people have been sentenced to death and there has been a rapid rise in the frequency of executions in the country.

Source: Amnesty International, 08/11/2007

Iran : two Afghans publicly hanged

November 7, 2007: Iran publicly hanged two Afghans for the rape of a Dutch woman, state news agency IRNA said.

The two were put to death in a square in the city of Saveh, southwest of the capital Tehran.

Saveh Public prosecutor Reza Shahkarami did not give details of the case and the Dutch embassy in Tehran was not immediately available for comment.

Source: Reuters, 07/11/2007)

Indonesia denies clemency to smugglers

Australia needs to send a clear, consistent message to Indonesia opposing the death penalty after its president rejected a series of clemency pleas by five foreign drug smugglers, a lawyer for one of the Bali Nine says.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono refused the appeals by the five - from Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan and Brazil - in a further blow for six Australians on death row for the same crime.

Indonesian authorities are now pushing ahead with the execution of the five, newspaper Pos Kota reported.

Darwin barrister Colin McDonald QC, who visited 21-year-old Bali Nine death row drug mule Scott Rush in prison on the weekend, said the failed clemency bids heightened the need for Australia to send a clear message opposing the death penalty.

The six Australians plan to appeal to Yudhoyono for clemency if their final legal appeals fail.

"It really is essential that Australia speaks consistently in relation to the death penalty, and we express our opposition forcefully," McDon…

Florida court ruling puts executions back on calendar

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday denied a death row inmate's request to stay his execution, saying the state's lethal injection procedures are not cruel and unusual punishment.

In a unanimous ruling, the justices denied Mark Schwab's request for relief on a variety of claims, including the lethal injection aspect.

Several states had halted executions beginning in 2005 amid concerns over the execution procedures.

Then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush issued a moratorium in his state after complaints over the length of time needed to execute prisoner Angel Nieves Diaz.

It took 34 minutes for Diaz to die -- twice as long as usual.

A two-year review is now complete, and Schwab's would be the first execution in the state since the moratorium ended.

"We reject the conclusion that lethal injection as applied in Florida is unconstitutional," the justices wrote.

The decision allows Schwab's execution, scheduled for November 15, to proceed pending further appeals.

He was…