Showing posts from February, 2009


Communist Vietnam's secret death penalty conveyor belt: How country trails only China and Iran for 'astonishing' number of executions

Prisoners are dragged from their cells at 4am without warning to be given a lethal injection Vietnam's use of the death penalty has been thrust into the spotlight after a real estate tycoon was on Thursday sentenced to be executed in one of the biggest corruption cases in the country's history. Truong My Lan, a businesswoman who chaired a sprawling company that developed luxury apartments, hotels, offices and shopping malls, was arrested in 2022.

High costs figure into death penalty debate, but Texas holds firm

Death penalty opponents across the country are using the plight of strained state budgets as an added reason to abolish the final sanction. The argument appears to be gaining traction in some states but not in Texas, the nation's leading death penalty state. "I don't think it's driving the effort in Texas the same way we're witnessing in other states," said Kristin Houl, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Legislators in eight states are considering abolition bills, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, and the issue of money has been raised in all of those discussions. The cost of the death penalty includes not just the cost of high-security incarceration and the execution itself, but years of appeals. The issue of expense has been raised before but "resonates a lot more" because of the fiscal crisis, Dieter said. But "that doesn't mean it's the only issue p

At least 350 executions in Iran in 2008

Iran Human Rights, Oslo, 24 February 2009 - According to the “Annual report on death penalty”, at least 282 people have been executed in 2008 in Iran. The report is published by the web site of independent network of the human rights defenders, Iran Human Rights ( The network has monitored reports published by the official Iranian media from January 1st to December 31, 2008. The actual number of the executions in Iran is much higher. The international network of “Iran Human Rights” is currently in the process of confirming additional 70 reports on death penalty in 2008. In case of confirming these cases, the actual number will exceed 350, which is higher than the 317 cases of death penalty in 2007, according to Amnesty International’s annual report on death penalty in 2007. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, at least 346 people have been executed in 2008 in Iran. At least two people were stoned to death in 2008 in Iran. “The increase in number of the

Missouri high court upholds execution procedures

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the means by which Missouri adopted its lethal injection procedures, clearing a barrier that had halted executions. Although once among the annual leaders in executions, Missouri has not put anyone to death since October 2005 because of various legal challenges to its method of lethal injection. It was not immediately clear when executions would resume as a result of Tuesday's ruling. In Missouri, execution dates are set by the state Supreme Court separately from its rulings on cases. The court did not immediately schedule any executions. The Department of Corrections released a statement Tuesday saying it was ready to carry out executions. The Missouri attorney general's office previously had requested execution dates for more than a dozen convicted murderers. Those requests still stand, spokesman Travis Ford said. In 2006, a federal judge declared Missouri's lethal injection process unconstitutional after the surgeon who previousl

Citing Cost, States Consider Halting Death Penalty

When Gov. Martin O'Malley (pictured speaking) appeared before the Maryland Senate last week, he made an unconventional argument that is becoming increasingly popular in cash-strapped states: abolish the death penalty to cut costs. Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat and a Roman Catholic who has cited religious opposition to the death penalty in the past, is now arguing that capital cases cost 3 times as much as homicide cases where the death penalty is not sought. "And we can't afford that," he said, "when there are better and cheaper ways to reduce crime." Lawmakers in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and New Hampshire have made the same argument in recent months as they push bills seeking to repeal the death penalty, and experts say such bills have a good chance of passing in Maryland, Montana and New Mexico. Death penalty opponents say they still face an uphill battle, but they are pleased to have allies raising the economic argument. Efforts to repeal the death penal

House panel backs bill banning death penalty in Colorado

A House committee Monday night, after hearing hours of emotional testimony, approved a bill that would ban the death penalty in Colorado. In a more than six-hour hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, families of murder victims along with former prosecutors and others argued for and against HB 1274, which would make life in prison without parole the highest punishment available to prosecutors. Under the bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, any savings from not trying the expensive cases in court would go to investigating unsolved homicides. "You can debate the morals (of the death penalty) forever," Weissmann said. "You can debate the question of deterrence forever." But what can't be debated is the cost savings from not pursuing the death penalty, which Weissmann estimated to be millions of dollars per year. A legislative analysis, though, estimated the figure at $369,041 per year, a sum Weissmann said was far too low.

Schwarzenegger changes strategy in execution debate

In a bid to hasten the return to capital punishment, California will submit revised lethal injection rules for public review rather than keep appealing court decisions that deemed them illegal. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his lawyers have switched strategies in the legal battle to resume executions, agreeing to submit revised lethal injection protocols for public review rather than continue appealing state court decisions that the redrafted rules are illegal. Although the move is intended to speed up a return of capital punishment, conservative law-and-order advocates and victims' rights groups expressed frustration over the persistent delays. State officials predict the execution procedures could be approved by a state panel in six months to a year, clearing the way for a federal judge to lift a moratorium on executions. San Quentin's death row, the nation's largest, houses 680 prisoners. The state attorney general's office, on behalf of the corrections department,

Iran: three hanged

Iran Human Rights, February 23: Three men were hanged in Tehran’s Evin prison early Sunday February 22, reported the government daily newspaper Iran. The men were identified as Mansour (34), Aziz (25) and Hasan (25), and all were convicted of murder according to the report. Sixteen convicts have been transferred to Evin prison for execution, the Human Rights Activists in Iran report, which signals for more executions to be carried out in the coming days. Sources: Iran Human Rights, Iran Press News, Feb. 24, 2009

Saudi Arabia: two police officers beheaded

So far for 2009, there have been 11 beheadings in the Oil Kingdom. The record was set in 2007 with 153 such executions. Corporal Shaalan Bin Nasser al-Qahtani and Lance Coporal Fah bin Hassan al-Sebeyi, convicted of rape in Saudi Arabia, were beheaded by the sword on February 21, 2008. This brings the number of beheadings in the oil kingdom to 11 announced for 2009 as of February 21. Rape, like apostasy, adultery, armed robbery, and drug trafficking, carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, where executions are held in public. The 2 police officers stopped a man and a woman late at night at a checkpoint. After beating the men and locking him in a police car, the pair then raped the man's niece. The incident was reported shortly afterward and the officers were arrested. The year 2007 holds the gruesome record of 153 executed in the land where Islam was founded, which applies a strict observance of shariah Islamic law. In 2006, 37 persons were executed while the previous record wa

Saudi Arabia: new execution

A Saudi man sentenced to death for murder was beheaded today in the western port city of Yanbu, the interior ministry announced, the 12th execution in the kingdom this year. Mohammed al-Hubaishi al-Juhani was executed for his role in the robbery and murder of Fuad bin Qarnabish. Together with 2 accomplices, Juhani lured Qarnabish into an empty house, tied him up and robbed him, the ministry said in a statement carried by the Saudi state news agency SPA. Working alone Juhani then took the victim and threw him in the Red Sea to drown. Juhani's accomplices were given heavy jail terms and lashes for their role in the crime. The execution brought to 12 the number of beheadings announced by the Saudi authorities since the beginning of the year. A total of 102 people were executed last year while in 2007 a record 153 people were executed in the country, which applies a strict version of sharia, or Islamic law. That figure compared with 37 in 2006 and the previous record of 113 in 2000. Ra

Sharon Keller hearing justified

Sharon Keller, the state's head criminal appeals judge, embarrassed Texas with her "we close at 5" rejection of a death penalty appeal in 2007. The execution was carried out a few hours later, magnifying this state's image as cavalier about putting people to death. It's fitting that Judge Keller will have to defend her actions and her job in a rare hearing before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Texas must have courts that are dispassionate, fair and soberly mindful of their life-and-death authority. Judge Keller's actions cast doubt about whether she measures up, and her opportunity to address that will clarify her level of commitment to justice over vengeance. Judge Keller has made other injudicious comments, such as a campaign statement that she is a "pro-prosecution" jurist. Properly applying the law rules out being "pro" anything aside from "pro" justice. That boils down to a matter of competence, one area of

Death row futility

The death penalty is wrong; decrying long stays on death row is beside the point. Thomas Francis Edwards died a week ago Saturday of natural causes at age 65. That may not sound strange until you consider that Edwards, the convicted killer of a 12-year-old Orange County girl, had been on death row for 22 years. That's right. Two decades later, the state of California still hadn't carried out a sentence imposed in the mid-1980s. And there's nothing unusual about that. Of the state's 680 death row inmates, 67 have been waiting to die for 25 years or more; nearly 300 have waited 15 years or more. Today, a death row inmate is more likely to die of old age than to be put to death by the state. Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 43 have died of natural causes, five more of "other causes," 16 by suicide -- and 14 have been executed, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Few would disagree that something here i

Judge's ethics case may hinge on phone calls

Sharon Keller picked up the phone at her Austin home two times on the day death row inmate Michael Richard would be executed. What she said could determine whether Keller continues as presiding judge of the state's highest criminal court. Both conversations will play a central role at the as-yet-unscheduled trial on charges that Keller violated her judicial duty by refusing to accept Richard's appeal after 5 p.m. on his execution date. Keller's unilateral refusal ignored Court of Criminal Appeals rules on death row appeals and, according to charges filed Thursday by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, violated ethics rules by: • Failing to ensure proper access to the legal system. • Eroding public confidence in the fairness of judges. Beyond revealing dysfunction within the normally secretive nine-member court, the charges contained previously unknown information about events leading to Richard's execution on Sept. 25, 2007 — including details of th

Georgia: Luke Williams executed

An Evans, Georgia man convicted of killing his wife and son to collect life insurance money has been executed in South Carolina. Luke Williams was put to death by lethal injection Friday. The 56-year-old made no final statement and kept his eyes closed as the drugs were administered. Moments later he was motionless and was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m. Source:NewsChannel6, Feb. 21, 2009

Iran: man sentenced to death for adultery hanged

February 19, 2009: According to reports from Iran, Abdollah Farivar Moghadam (pictured) who had previosly been sentenced to death by stoning for adultry, was hanged in the prison of Sari . The women web site Meydaan (women’s field) wrote that the music teacher Abdollah Farivar (53), who was arrested for adultry 4 years ago was hanged in the prison of Sari. Abdollah Farivar, married and father of two children, was sentenced to death by stoning convicted of having sexual relationship with another girl. Mr. Farivar’s mother told BBC (persian) that they were informed one day prior to hanging by the Iranian authorities that the stoning sentence of their son was converted to death by hanging. Shadi Sadr, lawyer and member of the stop stoning campaign, told BBC that this is the first time that someone sentenced to death by stoning has been hanged. She added: "there are at least 14 people sentenced to death by stoning in the Iranian prisons, an with the execution of Mr. Fariva

Texas Judge May Lose Job Over Appeal in Death Case

HOUSTON — The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct took the highly unusual step Thursday of starting proceedings against the presiding judge of the state’s highest criminal court because, two years ago, she closed her office promptly at 5 p.m. when she knew a death row inmate was about to file an appeal. The action could result in the judge, Sharon Keller, being removed from office after a hearing before a special magistrate. Judge Keller, a Republican first elected to the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1994, did not comment Thursday on the commission’s decision. Her lawyer said she “absolutely and totally” denied the accusations, The Associated Press reported. In the past, the commission members, who are appointed by the governor, have generally gone after judges for blatant misconduct and criminal offenses. They have seldom tried to censure a judge for allegedly denying someone access to the courts. “I have never seen anything like this before in 15 or more years of death penalty

Saudi Arabia: man beheaded for murder

February 18, 2009: A Saudi man convicted of murdering a compatriot was beheaded by the sword in the western city of Qanfatha, the interior ministry said. Ahmed bin Said al-Massudi stabbed to death Yehia al-Massudi with a dagger while under the influence of drugs after the victim caught him stealing his money, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency. Source: Afp, 18/02/2009

Virginia executes Edward Bell

Edward Nathaniel Bell Edward Nathaniel Bell was executed by injection tonight for the Oct. 29, 1999, slaying of a Winchester police officer. Bell maintained his innocence to the end. According to Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, the Jamaican national said: "To the Timbrook family, you definitely have the wrong person. The truth will come out one day. This here -- killing me -- there's no justice about it." Traylor said it was difficult to understand him because of his accent. Bell was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m., said Traylor. Bell, 43, was sentenced to die for the murder of Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook, 32, who was shot once in the head from close range while chasing Bell on foot. Bell was on probation, and the two had earlier run-ins. The killer's last hope was Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who personally opposes the death penalty. But in a statement released about 4 p.m. today, Kaine declined to interfere. "B

Montana Senate Passes SB 236

The Montana Senate has just given final approval to Senate Bill 236 on third reading. The legislation abolishes the state's death penalty, replacing it with a sentence of life without parole. The vote was 27 yeas and 23 nays, as it was yesterday on second reading. Senator Dave Wanzenried 's legislation will next go to the Montana House of Representatives for consideration. Source: The StandDown Texas Project, Feb. 18, 2009

US states consider abolishing executions amid financial crisis

SEVERAL US states are considering abolishing the death penalty as the execution process proves too expensive amid tough financial times. Death penalty laws remain on the books of 36 of the 50 US states, and capital punishment is supported by about 2/3 of the American public. But across the nation, states as diverse and far-flung as Montana, Kansas, New Mexico and Maryland are among those actively considering abolishing capital punishment in a bid to overcome ballooning budget shortfalls. "It is quite unusual that we've seen this blossoming of state legislative activity this year. It's because there is a renewed inspection of the death penalty," said Steve Hall, director of the anti-capital punishment group Standdown. Most of the states involved in the move are those which have only executed a few people - 5 or less - in the past 30 years since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. But "state legislators across America seem to be re-examining the death penalt

Bangladesh: three hanged

February 12, 2009: three convicts in the sensational Minu Ara murder case in Bangladesh were executed in the Jessore central jail. Minu Ara's husband Minarul Islam, alias Minu, Shukur Ali and Ekramul were hanged at 11:00pm. They all hailed from Hajrahati village of Chuadanga Pourasava. Sources said six men took Minu Ara to a desolate spot at Boalmari village on Chuadanga-Alamdanga road in Sadar upazila on the night of September 1, 2000. They gang raped and then slaughtered her, dumping the body into nearby Chandrabati well. Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-1 Judge MR Masud sentenced the six to death on June 18, 2002. The higher court upheld three of the death sentences and commuted three others to life imprisonment. Source: United News of Bangladesh Limited, 12/02/2009

Ohio: Jeffrey Hill spared

Gov. Ted Strickland spared the life of a death row inmate who killed his mother in a cocaine-induced rage and whose scheduled execution was opposed by his family, including his mother’s siblings. The inmate, Jeffrey Hill, 44, had been scheduled to die March 3. But Mr. Strickland said he agreed with the Ohio Parole Board, which recommended last week that Mr. Hill not be put to death and should eventually be released from prison. Mr. Hill stabbed his mother, Emma Hill, to death in 1991. As she lay dying in her Cincinnati apartment, he took $20 from her to spend on drugs, returning later to take $80. Mr. Hill’s family said they had suffered enough and that putting him to death would only make matters worse. Source: NYT, Feb. 13, 2009

Caribbean: seven in danger of being executed

ST KITTS AND NEVIS Lewis Gardner (m) Sheldon Isaac (m) Romeo Cannonier (m) Ruedeney Williams (m) - Death row prisoners Travis Duport (m) Evanson Mitcham (m) Warrington Philips (m) The seven men named above, who make up the entire population of death row on St Kitts and Nevis, may now be in greater danger of being put to death, as the island recently carried out its first execution in 10 years. Charles Elroy Laplace was executed on 19 December. Amnesty International has reason to believe that he may not have been granted his legal right to explore all avenues of appeal available to him before his execution. Charles Elroy Laplace, who had been on death row for four years, was executed on 19 December. He had been sentenced to death for the murder of his wife. On 29 October the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court had dismissed an appeal because it had been filed too late. Charles Laplace did not then appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the UK, the final court of appeal for

Texas: Johnny Ray Johnson executed

A career rapist blamed for multiple murders and attacks in Houston and Austin was executed Thursday evening for the slaying of a woman raped, beaten and left to die on a Houston street. In a lengthy statement Johnny Ray Johnson denounced Texas death row in particular and called for an end to the death penalty in the United States. He called death row the "Polunsky dungeon." The reference is to the Polunsky Unit that houses Texas' condemned men. "It's life without meaning. It's life without purpose. It is no life at all," Johnson said. He called death row a place of "unforgiveness ... terrifying ... and debilitating." "The most terrifying thing is the U.S. is the only place, the only civilized country free on this planet that says it will stop murder and enable justice. I ask each of you to lift your voices and demand an end to the death penalty in the United States of America." Johnson invoked the Lord, Christ and Jesus and closed his

Alabama: Danny Joe Bradley executed

Danny Joe Bradley, a resident of Alabama's death row for more than 26 years, was executed by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 6:15 p.m. today at Holman Correctional Facility. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier in the day denied a stay of execution clearing the way for him to be put to death for the rape and strangulation of his 12-year-old stepdaughter. Bradley's attorney had sought a Supreme Court stay of execution to allow more court review of Bradley's civil rights lawsuit on a DNA-related issue from his trial in Calhoun County, but lower courts had already denied that request. Bradley, 49, was convicted of murdering his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Rhonda Hardin, who was sexually assaulted and strangled in Piedmont on the night of Jan. 24, 1983. At the time of his step-daughter's murder, Bradley was caring for the 12-year-old girl and her younger brother, Gary Hardin Jr., while their mother was in the hospital. Bradley becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to d

Iran: three hanged

February 5, 2009: three Iranians convicted of killing a businessman were hanged in the western city of Kermanshah, a newspaper reported. Naser Ahmadi, Saeed Jannati and Farzad Jannati allegedly kidnapped and killed Nourali Shademani in 2005, the state-run daily Jomhuri Eslami reported, adding the three were hanged in the Dizel Abad Prison. Source: Agence France Presse, 09/02/2009

New Mexico: Death Penalty Repeal Passes House

The House of Representatives voted today to abolish New Mexico's death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life in prison without parole. The legislation, HB285, passed on a vote of 40-28, and headed to the Senate. Twice before, in 2005 and 2007, the House approved a death penalty repeal only to have it fail in the Senate. This year, repeal supporters are banking on a different outcome because there are new members in that chamber. "If everyone who told us they would vote with us stays, we will pass the Senate," predicted Viki Elkey, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty. A final hurdle would be Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, who has been a supporter of capital punishment in the past. Asked about it this week, he said only, "I'll take a look at it." There are two men on death row, Robert Fry of Farmington and Timothy Allen of Bloomfield, whose executions would not be prevented by the passage of the b

Florida: Wayne Tompkins executed

Wayne Tompkins has been executed by lethal injection for the 1983 murder of Lisa DeCarr, his girlfriend's 15-year-old daughter. DeCarr was strangled and buried under the porch of the Seminole Heights home where the three lived. Tompkins, 51, was pronounced dead at 6:32 p.m today after he failed to get courts to listen to his claims of innocence. Tompkins was "calm and businesslike" as the clock ticked toward his scheduled 6 p.m. execution, a state corrections spokeswoman said. Earlier today, he spent 3 hours with his mother, Gladys Staley of Brooksville. For 2 of those hours, they were not allowed physical contact. Tompkins, who is American Indian, also met with the prison chaplain since he had no other preferred spiritual adviser. Tompkins was in isolation this week, which is common for inmates in their final days before execution. He had no contact with other inmates in that time. A prison official sat down the hall from him recording his behavior and stat

Texas executes Dale Devon Scheanette

Dale Devon Scheanette A Louisiana man condemned for strangling and drowning a suburban Dallas woman, charged with the slaying of a 2nd and blamed for the rapes of at least five other women was executed Tuesday evening. Asked if he had any final statement, Dale Devon Scheanette paused and said, "My only statement is that no cases ever tried have been error free. Those are my words. No cases are error free." Scheanette then told the warden he could proceed. He selected no witnesses for his death. 6 relatives of his 2 murder victims watched as he took his final breath. He never looked at them. 9 minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow, he was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m. Scheanette, 35, became known as the "Bathtub Killer" after 2 women at the same apartment complex in Arlington in 1996 were found dead in half-filled bathtubs, strangled, raped and bound with duct tape. He was sent to death row for the Christmas Eve 1996 slaying of Wendie Prescott, 2

Illinois: New Governor Says Moratorium Stays

February 6, 2009: Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he has no immediate plans to lift the state's 9-year-old death penalty moratorium until he's satisfied safeguards are in place to keep innocent people off death row. Quinn, the former lieutenant governor who last week succeeded scandal-plagued Rod Blagojevich, said he supports capital punishment, but not necessarily the way it has been applied. No one has been put to death in Illinois since 2000 when then-Gov. George Ryan put all executions on hold, citing more than a dozen cases in which people were improperly sentenced to death. Three years later, the Republican took the extraordinary step of emptying Illinois' death row by commuting the sentences of all 167 inmates to life in prison. Blagojevich, a Democrat, continued the ban despite approving several reforms, and state lawmakers have ignored legislative attempts to decide the issue. As of today, there were 15 people -- all men -- on the state's death row. Sou

Yemen: Three executed for murder

February 7, 2009: Three Yemenis have been executed by firing squads after being convicted in separate cases of murder, the interior ministry said. Mohammed al-Namarri was found guilty of killing three men, including one member of his extended family, for undisclosed motives, the interior ministry website said, adding that he was executed in Ibb province, south of Sanaa. Bashir Ali was executed in the central prison of Taiz, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of the capital, after he was convicted of murdering Mohammed Ahmed, it said. Meanwhile, Saleh Naji al-Doushan was executed in the central prison of Sanaa after he was found guilty of killing Mohammed Ali al-Doushan. The executions bring to four the total number of people put to death this year in the impoverished southern Arabian peninsula country, where the penal code is based on sharia, or Islamic law. One man was executed in January in the capital, also for committing murder. Source: AFP, 07/02/2009

Washington: Doctor quits prison job over execution

Citing AMA and other professional ethics policies, the Washington state physician says he was obligated to refuse even indirect supervision of capital punishment procedures. The last few years have seen a flurry of controversies about physician involvement in capital punishment in California, Missouri and elsewhere. Organized medicine groups, including the American Medical Association, have said physicians should not participate in executions because their professional duties lie in preserving lives, not ending them. But what constitutes participation? The latest test of this ethical standard comes from Washington state. Just before Thanksgiving, the director of health services for the state's prison system resigned his post prior to the scheduled Dec. 3, 2008, execution of Darold Ray Stenson, who was convicted in 1994 of killing his wife and a business partner. As the corrections department's top medical officer, Marc F. Stern, MD, MPH, supervised about 700 physicians, pharmac

Kansas: Will death penalty fall victim to recession?

Death penalty opponents are emphasizing a different argument in an attempt to abolish it this year: cost. "Right now we are clearly looking at things outside the box in order to solve some of our budget deficits," said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, who introduced Senate Bill 208, which would abolish the death penalty in cases sentenced after July 1. "Part of that process means looking at how we do business in the future of the state." Lawmakers are working to cut this year's budget by about $300 million -- and next year's by even more. McGinn and other death penalty opponents point to a 2003 Legislative Post Audit that showed the median cost for death penalty cases was $1.26 million through execution, compared with $740,000 for non-death penalty cases through the end of incarceration. "It's part of the discussion that probably hasn't been had or given a very good hearing," McGinn said. "I think we really have to focus on the costs.&