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Showing posts from April, 2009

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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…

Colorado Senate committee backs eliminating death penalty

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DENVER—A proposal to eliminate the death penalty in Colorado cleared another hurdle at the Capitol on Wednesday.

The Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee endorsed the measure (House Bill 1274) in a party-line vote, sending in to another committee for a vote. The bill would take the $1 million now being spent to prosecute death penalty cases and use it to investigate cold cases. That would add seven employees to the state's cold case unit, which currently has only one investigator.

All three Democrats on the committee voted for the measure, and both Republicans voted against it.

Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, acknowledged the death penalty is expensive but said the state should find other ways to fund cold case investigations, such as cutting funding for tourism promotion or prison recreation programs. Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, said the state could have spent less on promoting renewable energy instead.

But bill sponsor Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Auro…

Georgia: William Mize executed

A Georgia man has been executed for the murder of a follower of his white supremacist group.

William Mark Mize was put to death Wednesday by lethal injection at the state prison at Jackson. The 52-year-old inmate was pronounced dead at 7:28 p.m. by authorities. Mize became the second person executed in Georgia this year. Mize was convicted of the October 1994 murder of Eddie Tucker, who was shot after he failed to follow orders to burn down what Mize considered to be a crack house in Athens. Prosecutors say Mize shot Tucker in the head with a shotgun after leading him into some woods.

Mize's attorneys sought this week to block the execution. But an appeals court dismissed their appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court also rejected a request to stay the execution.

Mize becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death in Georgia this year and the 45th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Mize becomes the 23rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA …

Iran: three hanged

April 28, 2009: Iran has hanged three convicted criminals, two murderers and a drug trafficker, in a prison in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, a local newspaper reported.

The report identified the murderers as Ala H. and Mostafa Kh. who were sent to gallows some time in the Iranian month of Farvardin-March 21 until April 20.

The report in the Karoon newspaper did not name the drug trafficker. No additional information was given.

Source: Afp, 28/04/2009

Iran: Yunes Aghayan at imminent risk of execution

Yunes Aghayan, a member of Iran's Azerbaijani minority and an Ahl-e Haq follower, is at imminent risk of execution after being convicted of "enmity against God." He is held in Oromieh Prison in West Azerbaijan Province, in north-west Iran. Another man, Mehdi Qasemzadeh, was executed after being convicted in the same case around 28 February 2009, giving rise to fears that Yunes Aghayan could be executed at any time.

Yunes Aghayan was arrested around November 2004, following at least two clashes in September 2004 between members of a group of Ahl-e Haq members and police. The group had refused to take down religious slogans at the entrance to their cattle farm in Uch Tepe, West Azerbaijan Province. During the clashes, five Ahl-e Haq members and at least three members of the security forces were killed.

Yunes Aghayan and four others were tried before Branch 2 of the Mahabad Revolutionary Court. In January 2005, Yunes Aghayan and Mehdi Qasemzadeh were sentenced to death for &q…

Burundi's new criminal code abolishes the death penalty but makes homosexuality a crime punishable by jail

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April 22, 2009: Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza (pictured) promulgated the new criminal code which abolishes the death penalty but makes homosexuality a crime punishable by jail.
The new criminal code also introduces laws against genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture which had previously been lacking.
More than 60 national and international rights groups have slammed the measure making homosexuality a crime punishable by jail.
According to the law, "whoever has sexual relations with a person of the same sex is punished by a prison sentence of three months to two years and a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 (CFA) francs, or one of these penalties," a joint statement said.
The lower house of Burundi's parliament in March reversed a Senate vote that rejected an amendment to the new criminal code that would make homosexuality punishable by a jail sentence of up to two years.
On March 6 thousands of Burundians took part in a government-organised demonst…

The Banality of Bush White House Evil

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WE don’t like our evil to be banal. Ten years after Columbine, it only now may be sinking in that the psychopathic killers were not jock-hating dorks from a “Trench Coat Mafia,” or, as ABC News maintained at the time, “part of a dark, underground national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement.” In the new best seller “Columbine,” the journalist Dave Cullen reaffirms that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were instead ordinary American teenagers who worked at the local pizza joint, loved their parents and were popular among their classmates.

On Tuesday, it will be five years since Americans first confronted the photographs from Abu Ghraib on “60 Minutes II.” Here, too, we want to cling to myths that quarantine the evil. If our country committed torture, surely it did so to prevent Armageddon, in a patriotic ticking-time-bomb scenario out of “24.” If anyone deserves blame, it was only those identified by President Bush as “a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded ou…

Petition to Remove Judge Sharon Keller from Office

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Petition to Remove Judge Sharon Keller from Office To: Members of the Texas Legislature, Governor Perry and the People of Texas

Judge Sharon Keller should be removed as a judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals either through impeachment, resignation or at the end of her trial on misconduct charges brought by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Keller's unethical conduct has brought discredit on the Texas judiciary. As longs as Keller is in office, the quality of justice in Texas remains discredited.

Keller has violated the public trust placed in her to dispense justice fairly and impartially.

She broke the rules of her own court when she refused to accept an appeal 20 minutes after 5 PM from a person on the day set for his execution.

In addition, she has asked the people of Texas to pay for her legal expenses to defend herself while she failed to report millions of dollars in assets to the Texas Ethics Commission.

➤ Click here to sign the online petition.

Source: Restore…

Iran: man hanged for rape

April 19, 2009: a man convicted of raping a woman five years ago was hanged in a prison in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, the Etemad newspaper reported.

Source: Agence France Presse, 20/04/2009

Saudi Arabia: woman beheaded for shooting husband

April 20, 2009: Authorities have beheaded a Saudi woman convicted of shooting her husband and setting his body on fire.
Laila Bin Hamdan al-Shammari was executed in the northern city of Hayel.
The Interior Ministry said the woman killed her husband after a dispute. It did not explain the nature of the argument.
According to an Associated Press count, this execution was the 24th beheading this year in Saudi Arabia.

Source: Sapa-AP, 20/04/2009

European Nations May Investigate Bush Officials Over Prisoner Treatment

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BERLIN, April 21 -- European prosecutors are likely to investigate CIA and Bush administration officials on suspicion of violating an international ban on torture if they are not held legally accountable at home, according to U.N. officials and human rights lawyers.

Many European officials and civil liberties groups said they were disappointed by President Obama's opposition to trials of CIA interrogators who subjected terrorism suspects to waterboarding and other harsh tactics. They said the release last week of secret U.S. Justice Department memos authorizing the techniques will make it easier for foreign prosecutors to open probes if U.S. officials do not.

Some European countries, under a legal principle known as universal jurisdiction, have adopted laws giving themselves the authority to investigate torture, genocide and other human rights crimes anywhere in the world, even if their citizens are not involved. While it is rare for prosecutors to win such cases, those targeted can…

Yemen: 'Aisha Ghalib al-Hamzi executed

'Aisha Ghalib al-Hamzi was executed on 19 April for the murder of her husband; all seven of her children had refused to pardon her. In cases of Qisas (retribution in kind) the relatives of the victim have the power to seek execution, request compensation or grant a pardon freely.

'Aisha Ghalib al-Hamzi was sentenced to death for the murder of her husband in October 2003. She had been detained in the Central Prison in the capital, Sana'a. Her sentence was confirmed on appeal in 2007. In December 2008, the Supreme Court in Sana’a upheld the death sentence. The President recently ratified her death sentence. Her execution was scheduled to be carried out on 4 April 2009 but was postponed for two weeks to allow attempts to seek a pardon from the relatives of her husband.
Source: Amnesty International, April 20, 2009

Iran: Delara Darabi's execution postponed

April 19, 2009: Iranian human rights activists say the execution of juvenile offender Delara Darabi has been postponed.
Darabi, who was due to be executed on April 20, was sentenced to death for a murder she allegedly committed at the age of 17.
Darabi's lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, said the victim's family has refused to attend the execution by hanging. Iranian law requires that the verdict be carried out only in the presence of the victim's family, resulting in the postponement.
Khoramshahi said the victim's family has not changed its demand for the execution.
Darabi originally confessed to murdering an elderly female relative during a robbery. But she subsequently retracted her confession, saying that her boyfriend committed the murder and she agreed to take the blame when he told her she was too young to be sentenced to death.
Her lawyer says there were shortcomings in the proceedings.
Sources: RFE/RL, 19/04/2009

Iranian Woman's Execution Imminent For Crime Committed At Age 17

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Delara Darabi was handed a death sentence in 2003

A young Iranian woman faces imminent execution, 5 years after being convicted of committing murder at the age of 17.

Delara Darabi's lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshah, was quoted as saying on April 16 that her death sentence has been confirmed by the Supreme Court.

Darabi will be executed by April 20 unless the family of the elderly woman she was convicted of murdering at the age of 17 decides to pardon her.

The case has alarmed human rights activists, and put the spotlight on Iran, one of the few countries that executes people for crimes committed as juveniles.

Along with her 19-year-old boyfriend, Amir Hossein Sotoudeh, Darabi allegedly burgled the home of an elderly female relative -- the cousin of Darabi's father -- and the woman was stabbed to death in the process.

Confession

Darabi initially confessed to the murder, and was convicted of the crime and handed a death sentence in 2003, despite her subsequent retraction of her confessio…

Protest the 200th Execution Under Texas Governor Rick Perry

On June 2, 2009, the 200th execution under Texas Governor Rick Perry is scheduled to take place. Since he became governor of Texas in December 2000, Perry has signed more execution orders than any other governor in U.S. history. The date of the 200th execution could change if any scheduled executions are successfully stopped.

The Texas anti-death penalty community asks people around the world to focus your attention on Texas and join us in protesting the 200th execution carried out under Rick Perry. Altogether, Texas has executed 436 people since 1982, including 152 under former Texas Governor George W. Bush.

How you can protest the 200th execution under Texas Governor Rick Perry

1) On the day of the 200th execution, call Governor Perry at 512-462-1782 and tell him your opinion on the death penalty. If you live in the U.S., you can use his the form on his website to email him. We suggest you both call him and email him. If you live outside the U.S., you can fax him at (512) 463-1849 or s…

Saudi Arabia: new execution

April 14, 2009: a Yemeni was beheaded by the sword in Saudi Arabia for garrotting a compatriot with a length of wire in a dispute over money, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the SPA news agency.

Fikri Mohammed Hassan Saleh was executed in the southwestern town of Jazan for killing a fellow Yemeni, identified only as Najib.

Saleh was allegedly under the influence of alcohol when he committed the crimes.

Source: Agence France Presse, 14/04/2009

Iran: Delara Darabi has now been scheduled for execution

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Delara Darabi has now been scheduled for execution, according to the Iranian newspaper Etemad on 18 April, according to another source on 20 April. She was convicted of murdering a relative when she was 17. Unless the Judiciary intervenes, she can now escape execution only if the woman’s entire family accept payment of diyeh, or blood money. One of the familly is said to be undecided.

Iran is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibit the use of the death penalty against people convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

- expressing concern that Delara Darabi is in imminent danger of execution for a crime committed when she was under 18;
- calling on the authorities to halt the execution of Delara Darabi immediately, and commute her death sentence;
- reminding the authorities that Iran is a state party to th…

Florida: The Daily Routine of Death Row Inmates

The breakfast carts rattle through the concrete prison at about 5:30 am and as they approach Death Row the first sounds of morning repeat the last sounds of night - remote controlled locks clanging open and clunking closed, electric gates whirring, heavy metal doors crashing shut, voices wailing, klaxons blaring. A maximum security prison has no soft or delicate sounds.

At the end of each corridor of death row cells a guard opens a heavy door of steel bars and a prison trusty pushes a breakfast cart inside. The door closes behind him and when it locks a second door opens and admits the trusty to the wing. He steers his cart along the wing stopping at each cell to pass a tray of powdered eggs and lukewarm grits through a small slot on the bars. Food is prepared by prison staff and transported in insulated carts to the cells. The food carts are full of cockroaches, the food is often undercooked or just rotten and is served on Styrofoam plates with a plastic "spork" - fork/spoon…

Obama Statement on Release of Torture Memos

The Obama administration said it won’t prosecute CIA officials who carried out harsh interrogation of terror suspects under Justice Department legal guidance. The decision was part of a hard-fought compromise in which the administration released four Bush-era memos from the Department of Justice giving legal guidance to the CIA on interrogations. Parts of the memos involving names of detainees and the way techniques were applied to particular prisoners were blacked out. Below is the text of Obama’s statement accompanying the move.

The Department of Justice will today release certain memos issued by the Office of Legal Counsel between 2002 and 2005 as part of an ongoing court case. These memos speak to techniques that were used in the interrogation of terrorism suspects during that period, and their release is required by the rule of law.

My judgment on the content of these memos is a matter of record. In one of my very first acts as President, I prohibited the use of these interrogation…

Bush-era interrogation memo: No torture without 'severe pain' intent

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Interrogation tactics such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and slapping did not violate laws against torture when there was no intent to cause severe pain, according to a Bush-era memo on the tactics released Thursday.

"To violate the statute, an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering," said an August 2002 memo from then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee to John Rizzo, who was acting general counsel for the CIA.

"Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture. ... We have further found that if a defendant acts with the good faith belief that his actions will not cause such suffering, he has not acted with specific intent," Bybee wrote.

The Bybee opinion was sought on 10 interrogation tactics in the case of suspected al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah.

The memo authorized keeping Zubaydah in a dark, confined space small enough to restrict the in…

Alabama: Jimmy Lee Dill executed

Alabama death row inmate Jimmy Lee Dill died at 6:16 p.m. today [April 16, 2009] by lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility.

His final words were: "I just hope God's will be done and everybody finds the peace they need. I'm good."

Dill had been on death row at Holman since Aug. 15, 1989. He was convicted in May of that year of shooting Leon Shaw in the back of the head and robbing him of cocaine and money in Birmingham on Feb. 8, 1988.

Shaw, a 33-year-old drug dealer who at the time was on federal work release, died about nine months later.

Shaw's wife Junatha Shaw and their son Leon Shaw Jr., both of Birmingham, were among those who witnessed tonight's execution. Also watching were 2 of Dill's nieces, Kimberly Allums and Linda Dill.

A few moments before losing consciousness, Dill turned to his victim's family and apologized. He also mouthed words of comfort to his two nieces who were holding hands as one of them sobbed.

Afterward, Leon Shaw Jr. sa…

Georgia: Court rejects Troy Davis' appeal

The federal appeals court in Atlanta on Thursday rejected death-row inmate Troy Anthony Davis' appeal to get a new trial on claims he is innocent.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Davis' bid in a 2-1 decision, saying he could not file a new appeal raising claims of innocence. But the court continued his stay of execution for 30 more days so Davis can pursue his final appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Davis sits on death row for the 1989 killing of Savannah police Officer Mark MacPhail. MacPhail was working off-duty when he was gunned down in a Burger King parking lot.

The 27-year-old former Army Ranger and father of 2 was unable to draw his weapon. He was shot 3 times.

Since the 1991 capital trial, 7 of 9 witnesses who testified against Davis have recanted their testimony.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 17, 2009

Death penalty foe's 'awakening' still a compelling story

Sister Helen Prejean was only slightly exaggerating Tuesday when she told her Human Rights Day audience at Indiana State University, "I have crisscrossed this nation 44 hundred thousand times."

Since 1982, when someone asked if she would consider writing to a prisoner on death row, Prejean has been on the move to raise awareness her own and America's about the inequities and false promises of capital punishment. Her best-selling book, "Dead Man Walking," has become a critically acclaimed film and an opera that is performed to sold-out houses all around the globe.

Prejean, who will turn 70 next week, shows no sign of slowing down. Other than a limp, left over from an ankle fusion last year, she seems ageless and even more energized for a cause that keeps expanding to include all human connections to one another and to our surroundings.

No matter how many times she stands before a crowd to deliver her message and Prejean is on the road more than she is in New Orlean…

Texas: Michael Rosales executed

Texas has executed a parole violator for beating and using kitchen tools to kill a 67-year-old woman during a burglary at her Lubbock apartment.

35-year-old Michael Rosales was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m. CDT Wednesday.

He confessed to the 1997 slaying of Mary Felder a day after Felder's body was found by her grandson, who routinely checked on her. Rosales told police he was high on cocaine and looking for money when he broke into her home as she slept. She was attacked when she woke up.

At a tight-knit apartment complex community in Lubbock, 67-year-old Mary Felder "Miss Mary" to the residents was everybodys grandmother, known for candy and cookies and other goodies available to the neighborhood kids.

"She was such a wonderful woman," said Ken Hawk, a former Lubbock district attorney.

That made it all the more shocking nearly a dozen years ago when her grandson, who routinely would check on Felder at her place at the Four Seasons Apartments, found her viciously be…

Malaysia: Two policemen sentenced to death

April 9, 2009: a Malaysian court sentenced two policemen to death for murdering a Mongolian woman who was blown up with explosives after she ended an affair with the prime minister's friend.
Ending the 159-day trial, High Court Judge Zaki Yasin convicted Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar with murdering Altantuya Shaariibuu, 28, sometime between October 19 and October 20, 2006.
In 2008, Zaki acquitted Abdul Razak Bangida, a close associate of Prime Minister Najib Razak, of charges of abetting the murder.
Source: Wall Street Journal, 09/04/2009

Saudi Arabia: man beheaded for rape and robbery

April 14, 2009: a Saudi Arabian man convicted of rape and robbery was beheaded.

An Interior Ministry statement said the man committed the crimes after drinking alcohol.

Sources: Associated Press, 12/04/2009

Sudan: nine men executed

April 13, 2009: Sudanese authorities executed nine men from Darfur for murder, state media and a police source said.
The state news agency SUNA later confirmed the men were hanged at Kober prison in Khartoum and named them.
The decapitated body of newspaper editor, Mohamed Taha Mohamed Ahmed, was found on a dirt road in Khartoum in September 2006. The men were found guilty in November 2007.
Ahmed was a journalist and owner of the Arabic-language al-Wifaq newspaper.
During the trial the lead police investigator, Abdul Rahim Ahmed Abdul Rahim, said the defendants' motives were "political, ethnic and financial".
Abdul Rahim said the defendants had been infuriated by an article in Taha's paper. A defence lawyer said the article had played down reports about rape in Darfur and used unflattering language to describe Darfurian women.
Source: Reuters, 13/04/2009

Welcome to a bright new day in the Allan Polunsky Unit!

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The Allan Polunsky Unit where Roger McGowen is imprisoned houses about 3500 inmates, 370-450 of which are on death row (depending on the year and number of executions). It is a huge, poorly built "bunker" that is deteriorating so rapidly that some of the cells get flooded during heavy rainfalls. The living conditions in this very peculiar place are as utterly desolate and horrifying as one could expect from a place called "death row."

However, it is important to emphasize that in the years since we started corresponding with Roger, in 1997, those conditions have worsened steadily, to an extent that is little short of inconceivable, and unquestionably constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" (see Death Penalty, The Death Penalty in the United States of America). For example, the food served to the inmates is of an appallingly poor quality, and is barely enough to keep them alive. Roger mentions in a letter (summer of 2004) that their daily intake is prob…