California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Iranian to be blinded with acid for doing same to woman

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- An Iranian woman, blinded by a jilted stalker who threw acid in her face, has persuaded a court to sentence him to be blinded with acid himself under Islamic law demanding an eye for an eye.

Ameneh Bahrami refused to accept "blood money." She insisted instead that her attacker suffer a fate similar to her own "so people like him would realize they do not have the right to throw acid in girls' faces," she told the Tehran Provincial Court.

Her attacker, a 27-year-old man identified in court papers as Majid, admitted throwing acid in her face in November 2004, blinding and disfiguring her. He said he loved her and insisted she loved him as well.

He has until early this week to appeal the sentence.

Doctors say there is no chance Bahrami will recover her vision, despite repeated operations, including medical care in Spain partially paid for by Iran's reformist former president, Mohammed Khatami, who was in power when the attack took place.

Majid said he was still willing to marry Bahrami, but she ruled out the possibility and urged that he remain locked up.

"I am not willing to get blood money from the defendant, who is still thinking about destroying me and wants to take my eyes out," she told the court. "How could he pretend to be in love? If they let this guy go free, he will definitely kill me."

Bahrami told the court that Majid's mother had repeatedly tried to arrange a marriage between the two after Majid met Bahrami at university.

She rejected the offer, not even sure at first who the suitor was. Her friends told her he was a man who had once harassed her in class, leading to an argument between them.

But he refused to accept her rejection, she said, going to her workplace and threatening her.

Finally, she lied and told him she had married someone else and that "it would be better all around if he would leave [her] alone."

She told the court that she reported the conversation to police, saying he had threatened her with "burning for the rest of my life" -- but they said they could not act until a crime had been committed.

Two days later, on November 2, 2004, as she was walking home from work, she became aware of a man following her. She slowed, then stopped to let him pass.

"When the person came close, I realized that it was Majid," she said. "Everything happened in a second. He was holding a red container in his hand. He looked into my eyes for a second and threw the contents of the red container into my face."

Bahrami knew exactly what was happening, she said.

"At that moment, I saw in my mind the face of two sisters who years ago had the same thing happen to them. I thought, 'Oh, my God -- acid.' "

Passers-by tried to wash the acid off Bahrami, then took her to Labafinejad Hospital.

"They did everything possible for me," she said of the doctors and nurses there.

Then, one day, they asked her to sign papers allowing them to operate on her.

"I said, 'Do you want to take my eyes out?' The doctor cried and left."

They did want to remove her eyes surgically, she learned, for fear they would become infected, potentially leading to a fatal infection of her brain.

But she refused to allow it, both because she was not sure she could handle it psychologically, and because she thought her death would be easier for her family to bear.

"If I had died, my family would probably be sad for a year and mourn my death, and then they would get used to it," she told the court. "But now every day they look at me and see that I am slowly wasting away."

The three-judge panel ruled unanimously on November 26 that Majid should be blinded with acid and forced to pay compensation for the injuries to Bahrami's face, hands and body caused by the acid.

That was what she had demanded earlier in the trial. But she did not ask for his face to be disfigured, as hers was.

"Of course, only blind him and take his eyes, because I cannot behave the way he did and ask for acid to be thrown in his face," she said. "Because that would be [a] savage, barbaric act. Only take away his sight so that his eyes will become like mine. I am not saying this from a selfish motive. This is what society demands."

Attacking women and girls by throwing acid in their faces is sufficiently common in countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia that groups have been formed to fight it. Human rights organizations have condemned the practice in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is not clear how often such attacks take place in Iran.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are the only countries that consider eye-gouging to be a legitimate judicial punishment, Human Rights Watch has said.

Source: CNN.com, December 15, 2008

Picture: Shahin Bahrami holds an article about her daughter. Says one Iranian journalist, "It's hard not to get emotional over what has happened" to Ameneh, now 31 (photo source: The Washington Post).

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