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Showing posts from May, 2009

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Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

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Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

Three men hanged in Iran for mosque bombing

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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian authorities hanged three men convicted for their involvement in a bombing of a Shia mosque, Iran's IRNA news agency reported Saturday.

The Thursday evening blast occurred in the southeastern Sistan-Balochistan province at a mosque in during prayers to commemorate the seventh century death of Fatima, the daughter of the prophet Mohammed.

Reports on the number of casualties varied in Iranian reports. Some local agencies said more than 20 people were killed and 125 were wounded in the bombing.

The suspects were arrested and being questioned on Friday.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a hard-line cleric, said there were signs that the United States and Israel were involved in the mosque bombing, IRNA reported.

The United States denied the allegations.

"The U.S. strongly condemns all forms of terrorism. We do not sponsor any form of terrorism in Iran. And we continue to work with the international community to try to prevent any attacks against innocent civilians a…

Fight to save Troy Davis continues on 2 fronts

More than 100 vigils, rallies, marches and other actions were held across the U.S. and in other countries worldwide on May 19 in support of Troy Anthony Davis, the Georgia man facing execution for a crime he has always denied committing.

Convicted solely on eyewitness testimony in 1991, the state's case has steadily unraveled as 7 of the 9 trial witnesses have recanted their testimony, claiming police coercion and intimidation. The Chatham County prosecutor offered no physical evidence at trial, no gun, no fingerprints, no forensics, nothing that linked Troy Davis to the crime.

Many more people have implicated one of the 2 remaining eyewitnesses, Sylvester "Red" Coles, as the shooter of Mark Allen MacPhail, the off-duty Savannah policeman, in a fast-food parking lot. It was Coles who initially went to the police in the midst of an intense hunt for the shooter. Coles named Davis as the guilty party.

According to the sworn recantation statements, police interrogators then …

Nebraska lawmakers approve lethal injection bill

Nebraska lawmakers have approved a bill giving the state the legal means to carry out its death penalty.

The bill would change the method of execution from electrocution to lethal injection. It passed on a 34-12 vote Thursday.

It now goes to Gov. Dave Heineman, who has said he supports the change.

Nebraska has been without a means of execution since February 2008 when the state Supreme Court ruled the electric chair was unconstitutional because it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Nebraska was the only state with electrocution as its sole means of execution.

11 men are on death row; the last execution was in 1997.

Source: Associated Press, May 29, 2009

China threatens to disbar lawyers known for taking human rights cases

China has threatened to disbar as many as 20 lawyers known for taking sensitive human rights cases, several of the lawyers said Wednesday, in the latest apparent clampdown on legal activists.

Lawyers said officials with justice agencies had issued warnings to leading members of their law firms in meetings and over the phone and that annual accreditations have yet to be issued only days before the June 1 renewal date.

If carried through, the disbarments on technicalities would mark the broadest effort in recent years by the authoritarian government to rein in a growing number of activist lawyers. Previously, only a few were disbarred, though threats, beatings and other acts of intimidation have been common.

"Before they used to pressure individuals but now they have turned to this more systematic method," said Tang Jitian, whose employer, the Anhui Law Firm in Beijing, was among those warned. "The justice departments say the lawyers who defend human rights are inharmonious …

Reconciliation committee urges Hamas to cancel death sentences

A reconciliation committee of Palestinian factions met in Gaza City on Tuesday and to send a letter to Fatah and Hamas urging them to stop all actions that have a negative impact on national dialogue.

The letter called on Hamas and the de facto government in Gaza to cancel the death sentences against 3 Palestinians which a Hamas military court ruled handed down on Sunday. The letter explained that the death sentences were related to the Hamas-Fatah rivalry and confrontations, and so should be addressed through the conciliation committee appointed during Hamas Fatah talks in Cairo.

The letter also called on both movements to stop politically-motivated detentions in the West Bank and in Gaza, also calling for a national committee to follow up on that issue.

Furthermore, the letter called for immediately halting all restrictions on public freedoms, namely freedom of movement and travel in Gaza as well as political activities.

For his part, representative of the Palestinian People's Party…

Iran: man hanged in the prison of Sirjan

One man was hanged in the prison of Sirjan, in Kerman province south east of Iran.

The state run Iranian news agency ISCA news reported that the man was convicted of drug trafficking, but didn’t identified him by name . The report didn’t mention exact time of the execution.

Source: Iran Human Rights, May 27, 2009

President Obama will nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David H. Souter

President Obama will nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as his first appointment to the court, officials said Tuesday, and has scheduled an announcement for 10:15 a.m. at the White House.

If confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate, Judge Sotomayor, 54, would replace Justice David H. Souter to become the second woman on the court and only the third female justice in the history of the Supreme Court. She also would be the first Hispanic justice to serve on the Supreme Court.

The president reached his decision over the long Memorial Day weekend, aides said, but it was not disclosed until Tuesday morning when he informed his advisers of his choice less than three hours before the announcement was scheduled to take place.

The president narrowed his list to four, according to people close to the selection process, including Federal Appeals Judge Diane P. Wood of Chicago, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Solicitor Ge…

Japan reintroduces popular juries in penal trials

May 21, 2009: Japan reintroduced popular juries in penal trials after a break of 66 years. This aligned Japan with the other G8 countries and created an opportunity for debate on capital punishment.

The reform will be introduced starting today, and will take until July, according to the provisions of the Justice Minister. Popular juries faced resistance and constitutional doubt from jurists and society at large.

It will be up to the six popular jurists, as well as three judges, to decide guilt or innocence in cases of murder. They will also decide the punishment, which includes the possibility of capital punishment by hanging.

According to a poll by the Yomiuri newspaper, despite more than 80% of the population favouring the death penalty, 79% said they did not want to take part in popular juries ‘so as not to have to decide on giving the death penalty.’

'I think that many people are worried about serving as jurors. However, it is necessary to bring the common sense that members of th…

Iran: four hanged in Shiraz

May 20, 2009: Four people were hanged in the prison of Shiraz in the morning, according to several Iranian newspapers such as Etemad.

According to the report the four people hanged in Shiraz were: A woman identified as Afsaneh (29), convicted of extramarital relationship and murdering her husband in 2006; An Afghan man (age not mentioned) convicted of raping a 50 years old woman in 2005; A man identified as Rasoul (age not given) convicted of keeping drugs; A 20 year-old young man convicted of a murder in August 2006.

According to this information this unidentified young man was a minor at the time of committing the alleged offence.

Source: Iran Human Rights, 23/05/2009

Former San Quentin warden honored for speaking out against death penalty

During her stint as warden of San Quentin State Prison, Jeanne Woodford oversaw the execution of 4 death row inmates without ever discussing her personal feelings about the death penalty.

On Thursday night, however, Woodford received an award from Death Penalty Focus for her courage in speaking out against capital punishment. Woodford, who went on to serve as both director and undersecretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, began sharing her thoughts about the death penalty about a year after retiring in 2006. Others honored by the San Francisco-based nonprofit included New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former California Attorney General John Van De Kamp.

Singling out Woodford and Van De Kamp, Death Penalty Focus director Lance Lindsey said, "They're courageous because they're coming out of communities that are often associated with a knee-jerk tough-on-crime position. What they represent is a smart-on-crime position."

Woodford, 56, s…

In the Absence of Proof

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The options are running out for Troy Davis, a man who has been condemned to death for killing a police officer in Georgia, but whose guilt is seriously in question.

It’s bad enough that we still execute people in the United States. It’s absolutely chilling that we’re willing to do it when we’re not even sure we’ve got the right person in our clutches.

Mr. Davis came within an hour of execution last fall. His relatives and his attorney, Jason Ewart, had come to the state prison to say goodbye. Mr. Davis had eaten his last meal, and Mr. Ewart was ready to witness his execution.

The mind-numbing tension was broken with a last-minute stay from the Supreme Court. The case then made its way to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, which ruled 2-to-1 last month against Mr. Davis’s petition for a hearing to examine new evidence pointing to his innocence.

The countdown to the ghoulish ritual of execution resumed.

Mr. Davis was convicted of shooting a police officer to…

Connecticut Senate voted to abolish the death penalty

The Connecticut Senate voted to abolish the death penalty early Friday morning after a marathon debate, narrowly approving a bill that would make life imprisonment without possibility of release the states highest criminal punishment.

The Senate approved the death penalty bill, 19-17, shortly after 4 a.m., after nearly 11 hours of debate. The same measure had previously passed in the House of Representatives, and proceeds to Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who has appeared likely to veto the bill.

If signed into law, the bill would make Connecticut the 16th American state without an active death penalty statute.

"Today's there been a shift history has been made in the state legislature," said Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn.

But before that history could happen, partisan acrimony virtually derailed the workings of the chamber, as the death penalty bill ran head-on into a deliberate slow-down effort by the Senate's 12-member Republican minority, prompted by the min…

Washington: State's lethal "cocktail" challenged in death-penalty suit

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Lethal-injection drugs administered by the state in carrying out capital-punishment sentences result in cruel and unusual punishment for the condemned, attorneys for 3 death-row inmates argued Thursday. 2 executions and the case of a third man on death row are on hold because of
a civil suit challenging the state Department of Corrections' method of lethal injection. Defense attorneys said they are not arguing to save their clients' lives, only to change the type of heart-stopping medication given to the condemned and who administers them.

"This case is about suffocation and searing pain," said Seattle attorney Scott Englehard, who is representing death-row inmate Jonathan Gentry.

In their opening statements, the inmates' attorneys criticized the state's lethal-injection protocols for lacking supervision by state-licensed doctors and nurses and for insufficient training and medical expertise for the execution-team members.

Englehard honed in on the 3-drug cocktai…

Florida Must Abolish Flawed Death Penalty

"Capital punishment: them without the capital get the punishment." Those were the last words of John Spenkelink, executed 30 years ago on May 25 in Starke for murdering traveling companion Joseph Szymankiewicz. Spenkelink was the first person executed in the state, the second nationwide after a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling reinstated capital punishment.

As a former Florida prison warden who carried out three electric-chair executions and shadowed five lethal-injection executions in Texas, I know that Spenkelink was correct: Most death-row inmates cannot afford experienced attorneys.

Once, I firmly supported capital punishment. Part of my job was to help strap prisoners into the electric chair, and signal the hooded executioner to administer the current. But each execution lessened my support. In Texas, I thought the more "civilized" executions by lethal injection would remove my repugnance. They didn't.

My change of heart was gradual and painful. At night I w…

Egypt Tycoon to Hang in Slaying of Pop Diva

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Suzanne Tamim (pictured) shot to fame in an ''American Idol''-style TV show, a green-eyed Lebanese beauty whose pop songs about love's agony mirrored her troubled life.

Now, the man reported to be her secret lover -- a married, politically powerful Egyptian tycoon -- has been sentenced to hang for paying a former government security agent $2 million to slit her throat, a murder almost as clumsy as it was horrific.

Billionaire Hisham Talaat Moustafa showed no emotion Thursday as he was convicted and sentenced for ordering the killing of Tamim -- the latest chapter in the sordid tale of sex, power, money and murder that was closely followed throughout the Middle East.

Many had wondered if the 50-year-old real estate mogul tied to President Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal, and an influential member of the ruling party, would get away with murder in a region where the rich are often thought to be above the law.

Befitting the drama, the courtroom erupted in chaos after the c…

27 Former Judges and Prosecutors File Amicus Brief with U.S. Supreme Court on Behalf of Troy Davis

On May 20, twenty-seven former judges and prosecutors from across the political spectrum filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis.

Signers of the amicus brief include Larry Thompson (Deputy Attorney General of the United States, 2001-2003), former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA; U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, 1986-1990); William S. Sessions (Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1987-1993), and John Gibbons (former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit).

Their brief urges the Court to order an evidentiary hearing in District Court, arguing that “Mr. Davis’ petition for an original writ meets this Court’s exceptional circumstances test because Mr. Davis can make an extraordinary showing through new, never reviewed evidence that strongly points to his innocence, and thus his execution would violate the Constitution.”

Davis’ attorneys filed a writ of habeas corpus with the Court, purs…

Japan: Book chronicles lives of death-row inmates

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The previously secret lives and unheard voices of people on death row have been published by a group opposed to capital punishment at a time when members of the public may soon be required to give the death penalty under the lay judge system.

The group, Forum 90, sent questionnaires last year to 105 inmates whose death sentences had been finalized, of whom 78 responded.

Extracts from their replies, expressing regret for their actions, the agony they experience in their cells or their disappointment with the judicial system, were initially presented at an annual public gathering last October in Tokyo to mark the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Forum 90 decided to compile the book, "Inochi no Hi wo Kesanaide" ("Please Do Not Extinguish the Spark of Life"), "so more and more people will face the words of death-row inmates themselves," said group member Taku Fukada.

"It has been almost 19 years since I was detained in this 4-tatami-mat-wide cell,&qu…

Iran: eight hanged in one day

May 16, 2009: eight men were hanged in Iran for murder and drug trafficking.

The first five were hanged in the Adelabad prison of Shiraz, reported the Iranian daily newspaper Etemad. All the men were convicted of murder and none of them were identified by their names. Those executed were: a man convicted of murdering her wife in the prison in April 2006; a young man charged with the murder of his friend in June 2006; a man charged with murder of his mother and father in law in May 2003; a 24 year-old man charged with murder of a 45 year-old man in July 2006; a 25 year-old man charged with murder of a man in September 2004.

Two men were hanged for drug trafficking in Isfahan, reported the daily newspaper Etemad.

According to the report, Alireza Ch. and a second man were hanged in the morning.

A man was hanged for murder in Isfahan, reported the Etemad. The man was identified as Mahmood (age not given).

Sources: IHR, 17/09/2009

Saudi Arabia: man executed for murder

May 18, 2009: a Saudi Arabian man was beheaded in Riyadh after being convicted of murder, the interior ministry said.

Massud bin Ali al-Qahtani was sentenced to death for shooting another man, Misfir bin Ajim al-Qahtani, it said in a statement carried by the SPA state news agency. Further details about the crime and the conviction were not disclosed.

Source: Inside the Gulf, 18/05/2009

Missouri: Dennis Skillicorn executed

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BONNE TERRE, Mo. Dennis Skillicorn (pictured) died from lethal injection early this morning, becoming the first Missouri prisoner to be executed in nearly four years and the 67th since 1989.

Skillicorn, 49, was pronounced dead at 12:34 a.m. at the state’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center.

The Kansas City man was one of the “Good Samaritan killers” who murdered Richard Drummond of Excelsior Springs, and later an Arizona couple in a 1994 crime-spree that stretched from Missouri to Mexico. Skillicorn had been on death row since his conviction in 1996.

Prior to today, Missouri hadn’t carried out an execution since October 2005.

In 2007, the state was one of several to delay executions pending the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court case over the constitutionality of lethal injections. The high court found the method of execution constitutional in April 2008, however, and a lower court issued a similar ruling specific to Missouri a few months later.

Gov. Jay Nixon denied …

Iran: A prisoner hanged in Dezful

A male prisoner has been hanged in Iran's southwestern city of Dezful, state-run daily Kayhan reported on Tuesday. The report identified the man sent to the gallows as Ahmad A., without giving information on when the execution had taken place.

On Sunday, the state-run daily Etemad reported that the regime's henchmen hanged 3 prisoners in the central city of Esfahan. The report identified 2 of the victims only by their 1st name Mahmoud and Alireza.

The hangings surpassed 185, the number of people executed in Iran since the beginning of 2009, indicating a 70 % rise compared to the same period last year. Iran under the mullahs currently ranks 1st for per capita executions in the world. It also ranks 1st in hanging juveniles.

Source: National Council of Resistance of Iran - Foreign Affairs Committee, May 20, 2009

Texas: Michael Lynn Riley executed

An East Texas man apologized repeatedly Tuesday as he was executed for fatally stabbing a convenience store clerk during a robbery more than 2 decades ago.

"I know I hurt you very bad," Michael Lynn Riley said to his victim's relatives, including her 2 daughters and husband. "I want you to know I'm sorry. I hope one day you can move on and, if not, I understand."

Brandy Oaks said she accepted Riley's apology and was pleased to hear it. She was 4 when her mother, Wynona Harris, was killed.

"This is a difficult day and there are no winners on either side," she said. "Her spirit will live on in our hearts and in our lives.

"I think being here was something I needed. It's the last chapter in the book. I can close it. It's over for me, emotionally, I guess."

"It's strange, it's almost like I never had her to begin with," her sister, Jennifer Bevill, said about losing her mother when she was 1 1/2.

She said she had…

Executions Debated as Missouri Plans One

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Officials in this state are preparing to execute a prisoner for the first time since 2005, when criticisms about the state’s lethal injection method emerged and one doctor who carried out executions acknowledged being dyslexic and sometimes “improvising” when it came to the amounts of chemicals he administered.

That doctor will no longer take part, and a United States Supreme Court ruling last year upheld a lethal injection procedure similar to the one Missouri will use, but some lawmakers, including some prominent Republicans, say they have lingering questions about the state’s system of capital punishment.

The focus of those questions has shifted some, no longer centering on the method of execution but turning toward which prisoners are condemned and which are not, and whether those choices make sense.

“I still favor the death penalty, but I just want to make sure we put the right people to death,” said State Representative Bill Deeken, a Republican, explaining why h…

Save Troy Anthony Davis: Georgia is set to execute a man who may well be innocent

The State of Georgia has been trying to execute Troy Anthony Davis for more than 15 years, despite compelling evidence that he did not commit the murder for which he is sentenced to die.

Davis has been to death's door 3 times - most recently, he was 90 minutes from execution - rescued each time by heroic lawyering. But his luck may be running out.

A 30-day stay of execution expires this weekend, prompting Amnesty International and other human rights groups to declare Tuesday a global day of action - a time for those who hate injustice to raise our voices and save this man's life.

You can get details of protests, poetry readings, letter-writing campaigns and information about the case at www.aiusa.org/troy or by texting "Troy" to 90999.

In August 1989, Davis and a running buddy named Sylvester (Red) Coles spent a riotous, hell-raising night in Savannah. Eyewitnesses say Coles shot at 2 of his neighbors at a house party with a chrome .38 pistol, hitting and wounding one.

Da…

The 132nd Death Row Exoneree: Implications for the Troy Davis Case

One of the many disturbing aspects of capital punishment is that it has no guarantee against mistaken convictions and executions. This risk of mistakes was driven home again on May 12th, just days ago, when a Tennessee District Attorney dropped all charges against former death row inmate Paul House, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1986.

House spent 22 years on death row and was scheduled to be retried next month. In 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court, because he had raised a colorable claim of innocence, granted House the opportunity to challenge the legality of his conviction and death sentence on other grounds. That ruling merely gave him the opportunity to have a federal court decide whether he should be given a hearing on the question of a new trial. A federal court ultimately did determine that House was entitled to a new trial.

House was released from prison in July 2008 pending his new trial. And DNA testing has excluded House as the murderer. Now that the Distric…

Oklahoma: Donald Lee Gilson executed

Proclaiming his innocence and saying he would see his victim in heaven, a man convicted of battering his girlfriend's 8-year-old son and stuffing the dead body in an abandoned freezer was executed Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

Donald Lee Gilson, 48, lifted his head and smiled at his family before the lethal combination of drugs began to flow through his veins at 6:14 p.m. He was pronounced dead 5 minutes later, said Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie.

"I'm an innocent man but ... I get to go to heaven and I'll see Shane tonight," said Gilson, who was convicted in the 1995 killing of Shane Coffman, in his final statement.

"It's God's will that this take place."

Gilson's parents, sister, a friend and a pastor witnessed the execution. About a dozen members of the victim's family also watched Gilson die behind a 1-way glass looking into the death chamber. Several others watched on closed-circuit television.

G…

Alabama executes Willie McNair

Willie McNair, convicted of robbing, strangling and stabbing to death a southeast Alabama woman for whom he did yard work, died by lethal injection tonight as his victim's 6 children watched.

McNair, 44, did not look at victim Ella Foy Riley's children. He also declined to pray with the prison chaplain, made no final public statement and spent his last moments staring at the ceiling as the injection began at 6 p.m. He was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m. by Alabama Corrections officials.

Pat Jones and her brothers Calvin, Don, John, Bobby and Wayne Riley wore buttons with their mother's photograph for the execution. The buttons said "you are gone but you are not forgotten."

Wayne Riley, the youngest of the sons, issued a statement afterward: "I thank God for keeping myself, my 4 brothers and my sister alive and in good health so that we were able to see justice finally done. I ask that you pray for my family in the coming days and for the Willie McNair family, too,…

Iran: 1 woman and 1 man were hanged in the prison of Qazvin

I2 people, one of them a woman, were hanged in the prison of Qazvin early this morning May 13. reported the government dailt Iran.

The man was identified as "Mohammad" and the woman was identified as "Azita", and both were convicted of drug trafficking according to the report.

Earlier this week, another man was hanged in Qazvin.

Source: Iranhr, May 14, 2009

Iran: several hanged

Iran Human Rights, May 12: Four people were hanged in the cities of Isfahan and Zahedan yesterday morning May 11. reported the Iranian daily Etemad.

According to the report two men identified as Mostafa (26) and Hossein (age not mentioned), both convicted of murder, were hanged in the central prison of Isfahan.

The two other men, identified as "Mohammad Mehdi" and "Reza Gholi" and convicted of drug trafficking were hanged in the central prison of Zahedan, in south-eastern Iran, said the report.

One person was executed on Sunday May 10. and two others on Tuesday May 13: According to the site "Human rights and democracy actvists in Iran", besides Monday’s two executions in Isfahan, three other people have been executed in the prison of Isfahan since Sunday May 10. According to this site, one person was hanged in the prison of Isfahan on Sunday while two others were executed early Tuesday morning May 13. According to this report the two men who were executed th…

Missouri is about to execute Dennis Skillicorn. The state's death penalty may not outlive him very long

At 49 years old, Dennis Skillicorn no longer looks like the picture on the ID clipped to his starchy, prison-issued shirt. His mustache and hair have gone from brown to gray. Blurry tattoos set into his arms have faded to the same slate blue as the eyes magnified behind his glasses.

Skillicorn lives on death row at Potosi Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison near rural Mineral Point, Missouri. He is scheduled to die just days from now, on May 20.

Skillicorn believes he's going to heaven.

"Absolutely, I do," he says. "Yes. Thanks to Jesus Christ, and only because of Jesus Christ, can I go to heaven." Of his execution by lethal injection, he says, "I believe that it's just a doorway. It's not an end."

In 1996, Skillicorn was convicted of murdering Richard Drummond, an AT&T supervisor who pulled over to help Skillicorn and 2 other men whose car had broken down near Kingdom City, Missouri. Skillicorn, Allen Nicklasson and Tim DeGraffenre…

Alabama Gov. Riley plans to sign bill to increase the number of witnesses

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley plans to sign a bill into law in time to allow six siblings to witness the scheduled Thursday execution of their mother's convicted killer.

The measure, passed last week by the Legislature, would increase from 2 to 6 the number of immediate family members of a crime victim who can witness the perpetrator's execution. The measure would extend the same right to immediate family members of the inmate condemned to death.

"The governor plans to sign this bill as soon as it is transmitted to our office on Thursday morning," Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson said in an e-mail. "It takes effect immediately, which means it would be in effect for the execution scheduled for Thursday evening."

Willie McNair of Abbeville is scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday evening at Holman Correctional Facility. McNair has been on Death Row since 1991, having been sentenced to death for the 1990 robbery-murder of Ella Foy Riley in her Abbeville home.

Until t…

North Carolina Supreme Court Overrules State Medical Board's Ban on Doctor Participation in Executions

The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that physicians cannot be punished by the State Medical Board for taking part in executions.

The Medical Board had adopted a policy in January 2007 that their physician's code of ethics would be violated by a doctor taking part in an execution, subjecting practitioners to having his or her medical license revoked.

This policy conflicted with the state law that requires a physician’s presence at all executions, effectively putting North Carolina’s executions on hold.

Writing for the majority, Justice Edward Thomas Brady wrote, "[The Medical Board's] position statement exceeds its authority . . . because the statement directly contravenes the specific requirement of physician presence." In the dissenting opinion, Justice Robin Hudson wrote, "The position statement is a valid exercise of [the Medical Board's] statutory authority. Any change in that authority – which is the practical effect of the majority opinion – is a m…