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Showing posts from December, 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…

Delusional British National Executed in China over Drug Smuggling

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Coming on the heels of its efforts to derail climate change talks in Copenhagen and the stiff prison sentence handed over to a political dissident popular in the West, German newspapers see the handling of the prosecution and execution of a British citizen in China as the latest example of the country's "immature" behavior on the global political stage.

Few issues are as sensitive in Europe than that of capital punishment. The death penalty is banned in each of the 27 European Union member states and media coverage is often highly critical of state-ordered executions in the United States and China.

Tuesday's execution by lethal injection in China of Akmail Shaikh, a 53-year-old British national with an alleged history of mental illness who was busted in 2007 for smuggling 4 kilograms (around 9 pounds) of heroin, is no exception. But coming just days after China stalled global climate negotiations in Copenhagen and issued a stiff, 11-year sentence against Liu Xiaobo, a …

Iran hangs 3

Iran has hanged 3 convicted drug traffickers at a prison in the central city of Isfahan, the government-run newspaper Iran reported on Wednesday.

The men were identified as Qodrat, Khan Mohammad and Mostafa and all convicted separately of dealing and carrying narcotics, according to the report, which did not furnish more information.

The hangings bring to at least 270 the number of people executed in Iran so far this year, according to an AFP count based on news reports.

In 2008, Iran executed 246 people, the highest number in any country bar China.

Tehran says the death penalty is necessary for maintaining public security and is applied only after exhaustive judicial proceedings.

Murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and adultery are all punishable by death in the Islamic republic.

Sources: Sapa, AFP, December 30, 2009

China executes Briton

(CNN) -- The British government condemned China's execution of a British national Tuesday on drug smuggling charges.

"I ... am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted," Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. "I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken."

Akmal Shaikh was convicted of carrying up to 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of heroin at the Urumqi Airport in September 2007. According to Chinese law, 50 grams (1.76 ounces) is the threshold for the death penalty.

China defended the execution in a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in London.

"Drug trafficking is a grave crime worldwide," the statement said. "The concerns of the British side have been duly noted and taken into consideration by the Chinese judicial authorities in the legal process, and Mr. Shaikh's rights and interests under Chinese law are properly respected and guaranteed."

The 53-year-old is the f…

Chronicle of a Programmed Death - 1

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Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner (left) is scheduled to be executed on February 24, 2010, on the first day of the World Congress Against the Death Penalty. His wife Sandrine Ageorges, the international representative for the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, writes a chronicle of his programmed death on Abolition.fr.

Those who accompany death row prisoners in Texas would probably chose different words to talk about their experience in the “modern” Wild West. When the mask of the “new world” falls to reveal the macabre grimace of a justice system that kills, words are vain and emotions are numerous.

The road to abolition is tortuous and painful when it deals with human beings and their survival in isolation waiting for their programmed deaths. What I learned on Texas death row, and through the life of those tied to it (families and friends of the condemned, victims’ families, attorneys and investigators, abolitionists and those who work on death row) has profoundly changed…

Appeals to China Intensify in Effort to Spare Briton

LONDON — Five days before a British man is scheduled to be executed in China for heroin smuggling, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has joined members of the man’s family and human rights organizations in renewing appeals for clemency.

They say Chinese courts failed to give adequate weight to the man’s history of mental disturbance or to his claim that he was duped into carrying the heroin by a drug gang.

But Chinese officials have rejected the appeals, saying that the execution of the Briton, Akmal Shaikh, 53, will go ahead on Tuesday.

Full story here.

Source: The New York Times, December 24, 2009

Saudi Arabia: man beheaded for stabbing father to death

December 21, 2009: Saudi Arabian national Khaled bin Saleh al-Owfi was beheaded by the sword in Mecca after being convicted of stabbing his father to death, an Interior Ministry statement carried by the SPA state news agency said.

Al-Owfi also injured his brother after consuming pills of banned stimulant Captagon.

Sources: Agence France Presse, Hands Off Cain, 21/12/2009

Iran: clashes with police over public hanging. Bodies taken down by crowd.

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Iran Human Rights, December 22: Two men convicted of armed robbery were hanged in public in the south Iranian city of Sirjan in Kerman province early this morning, reported the state run news agency Fars.

The men were identified as "Esmaeil Fathizadeh" and "Mohammad Esfandiarpour"

According to the report, many people among them families of the two men, who were gathered at the spot, started chanting against the authorities and threw stones at the security forces. The security forces answered with tear gas and shooting in the air. But the people managed to take away the bodies of the two men. One of the men seemed to be still alive when his body was removed by the protesting people said the report.

The security forces are trying to arrest those who where involved in the clashes according to the report.

Iran Human Rights is still investigating about today’s event in Sirjan.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights said:" Public hanging is a barb…

Christian leader supports death penalty for gays

A far right Christian group has urged fellow Christians to support Uganda's proposed law that would make homosexuality punishable by death.

Stephen Green, leader of the Christian extremist group 'Christian Voice', remarked:

"The Bible calls for the ultimate penalty for sodomy (Lev 20:13) and for rape (Deut 22:25), and our Lord upheld the death penalty when He called for the accusers of the woman caught in adultery to cast the first stone (John 8:7) – if, that is, they were not implicated in adultery themselves.

"The contrast between our politicians and those of Uganda could not be more stark. A Parliamentarian in Uganda is trying to protect his nation's children. The House of Commons of the United Kingdom is trying to corrupt ours. Which country is the more civilised, I wonder, in the eyes of Almighty God?"

The law would impose the death penalty on those convicted of having gay sex with a minor or disabled person or someone infected with HIV.

Friends and fami…

Three men hanged in Isfahan, Iran

Iran Human Rights, December 20: Three men were hanged in the prison of Isfahan (central Iran) according to the official site of Isfahan’s judiciary this morning.

According to the report the three men were identified as "Ghodrat Gh." (55) convicted of trafficking of 141,5 kg. of opium, Khan Mohammad Daraei (age not mentioned) for keeping 120 g. of Crack and 2 g. of marijuana, selling 15 g. of heroin, and drug addiction, and "Mostafa Ch." convicted of keeping 135,4 g. of heroin, 35,6 g. of opium and addiction to opium.

Iran Human Rights underlines that the charges are only according to the Iranian authorities and have not been confirmed by independent sources.

Condemning today’s executions, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights said: "We are concerned about possible executions in the Christmas holidays. Iranian authorities often choose major holidays for mass executions in order to avoid international attention. Last year 10 people were han…

Kansas: Legislature to consider end to death penalty

Kansas will consider abolishing the death penalty next year as death sentences are declining across the United States.

Fewer people were sentenced to death this year than any other year since 1976, according to a report released Friday by the Death Penalty Information Center.

The report cites 106 new death sentences handed down in 2009, compared to 111 in 2008. Both are down significantly from a decade ago, when 284 death sentences were given out.

Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, has scheduled four days of hearings beginning Jan. 19 on a new bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Kansas.

A Kansas Judicial Council advisory committee of lawmakers, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers helped rewrite a bill sponsored last year by Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.

But Kansas' top prosecutor said this week he wants to see the death penalty continue.

"I think it's a just punishment for what those folks did," Attorney General Steve Six told The Eagle.

Read more here.

Sourc…

Three men hanged in southeastern Iran on December 16

Iran Human Rights, December 19: Three men were hanged in the prison of Zahedan, capital of the southeast Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, reported the official Iranian news agency IRNA.

According to the report that was quoting the Baluchestan judiciary, the men were identified as "Mosa M." convicted of keeping and trafficking of 84 kg heroin and 921 kg opium, "Khaleghdad F." for trafficking and hiding 49,5 kg heroin and 98 kg opium and "Ghader M." for trafficking of 745 kg opium and 465 kg opium. All the men were hanged early Wednesday morning December 16.

Iran Human Rights underlines that the charges mentioned above have not been confirmed by independent sources.

According to our reports, at least 14 people have been hanged in the last 10 days in Iran.

Source: Iran Human Rights, December 19, 2009

Swedish Presidency Statement on the execution of Mosleh Zamani in Iran

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The Presidency of the European Union condemns the execution of Mosleh Zamani (left) on 17 December 2009. Zamani was sentenced to death for a crime committed as a minor. The Presidency is concerned about the continued large-scale use of the death penalty in Iran, including the repeated executions of persons who committed crimes below the age of 18.

The Presidency recalls the EU's longstanding opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances and recalls that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the application of capital punishment represents the irreparable and irreversible loss of human life. The Presidency continues to call on the Iranian authorities to abolish the death penalty completely and, in the meantime, to establish a moratorium on executions as urged by United Nations General Assembly resolutions 62/149 and 63/168.

More on Mosleh Zamani here: Iran Executes Juvenile Offender

Source: Swedish Presidency of the European Union, December 18, 2009

China: Billionaire given death penalty for murder

HARBIN, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- Billionaire Wang Wenxiang was sentenced to death Friday for hiring two people to murder a former business partner.

Wang, 49, a native of Heilongjiang Province, was convicted of having contracted the killing to his personal secretary Bai Peng and a migrant worker Yu Yi, according to the court verdict handed down by the Municipal Intermediate People's Court of Harbin, the provincial capital.

The court also sentenced Bai to death and gave death penalty with a two-year reprieve to Yu over charges of murder and theft.

The three were ordered to pay 340,000 yuan (49,786 U.S. dollars) in compensation to the victim Zhong Yishi, who ran a construction company that began doing business with Wang 10 years ago.

Wang and Zhong had a rancor over defaulted payments for a project that ended up in court in 2004. Wang's company was ordered to pay 10 million yuan to Zhong in compensation.

In December last year, Zhong brought another lawsuit against Wang on other issues rela…

DPIC's 2009 Year End Report Released

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The Death Penalty Information Center released the “The Death Penalty in 2009: Year End Report” on December 18, noting that the country is expected to finish 2009 with the fewest death sentences since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Eleven states considered abolishing the death penalty this year, a significant increase in legislative activity from previous years, as the high costs and lack of measurable benefits associated with this punishment troubled lawmakers.

“The annual number of death sentences in the U.S. has dropped for seven straight years and is 60% less than in the 1990s,” said Richard Dieter, the report’s author and DPIC’s executive director. “In the last two years, three states have abolished capital punishment and a growing number of states are asking whether it's worth keeping. This entire decade has been marked by a declining use of the death penalty." There were 106 death sentences in 2009 compared with a high of 328 in 1994.

New Mex…

California's death row grows as death sentences decline nationwide

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In Los Angeles County alone, 13 convicted murderers were condemned, contributing to the state's 2009 total of 29, according to a national report.

Los Angeles County sent more people to death row this year than Texas, Florida or any other state in the nation, condemning 13 convicted murderers -- the highest number in a decade, according to a Times review of justice statistics.

The increase comes as a national report projects that the number of death sentences issued across the country this year will reach its lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

Los Angeles County helped California buck that trend, boosting the state's death sentences from 20 last year to 29 so far this year, more than a quarter of the nationwide total of 106, according to a report released Friday by the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. The center attributed the national decline to deepening concerns about the costs of capital punishment and the possibility of wrongful convictio…

China businesswoman gets death sentence for fraud

BEIJING — A Chinese businesswoman was sentenced to death Friday for cheating investors out of $56 million — the latest case in the country's struggle against widespread corruption.

The 28-year-old Wu Ying started out a decade ago with a single beauty salon but eventually built up a holding group, Bense Holdings, that was known around the country, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The report said Wu collected the $56 million from investors over two years and was arrested in 2007.

Video posted online of her sentencing had the petite, ponytailed Wu showing little emotion as she was led into the courtroom.

In China, the death penalty is used even for nonviolent crimes such as corruption or tax evasion. The country's highest court, which reviews all death sentences, this year called for it to be used less often and for only the most serious criminal cases.

The Intermediate People's Court in Jinhua city, eastern Zhejiang province, said Wu used the money for personal use and …

U.S.: Death Sentences Dropped, but Executions Rose in ’09

More death row convicts were executed in the United States this year than last, but juries continue to grow more wary of capital punishment, according to a new report.

Death sentences handed down by judges and juries in 2009 continued a trend of decline for seven years in a row, with 106 projected for the year. That level is down two-thirds from a peak of 328 in 1994, according to the report being released Friday by the Death Penalty Information Center, a research organization that opposes capital punishment.

Read the full article here.

Source: The New York Times, December 17, 2009

Iran executes alleged juvenile offender

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Mosleh Zamani is about the 46th alleged juvenile offender to be executed since 1990

Amnesty International has condemned the execution of an alleged juvenile offender in Iran on Thursday, at least the 5th such execution in 2009.

Mosleh Zamani was hanged at Dizel Abad Prison at 4am, along with 4 other unidentified prisoners.

He was sentenced to death in 2006 for allegedly raping his girlfriend when he was 17.

"Once again, despite domestic and international calls for the Iranian authorities to uphold their international obligations, they have executed someone who was under 18 at the time of his alleged crime," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme. "How many more will die before Iran stops this dreadful practice?"

Mosleh Zamani's death brings the number of alleged juvenile offenders executed in Iran since 1990 to at least 46.

Amnesty International was told that 200 people demonstrated outside the prison…

Iran: man convicted of "immoral acts" hanged

Iran Human Rights, December 16: A man was hanged in the northeast Iranian town of Bojnord early Monday morning December 14, reported the official site of the Iranian judiciary.

The man, who was not identified by name, was convicted of "acts incompatible with chastity" according to the report.

No further details were given by the report.

Source: Iran Human Rights, December 17, 2009

China: woman executed over child prostitution

December 14, 2009: a woman in southwest China, Zhao Qingmei, was executed "in recent days" in Guizhou province after her final appeal was rejected, the Guizhou Daily reported.

Zhao was convicted of forcing 22 schoolchildren into prostitution from March to June 2006 and aiding her husband in the rape of a child.

The report said the other defendants, including Zhao's husband, were given sentences ranging from jail time, including life sentences, to death with a two-year reprieve, a punishment normally commuted to life in prison.

Sources: Agence France Presse, Hands Off Cain, 14/12/2009

United Nations: Death penalty almost abolished

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The majority of UN members no longer practise capital punishment, the organisation said on Monday.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said around 140 of the body's 192 member states had abolished capital punishment either formally or in practice.

Pillay's remarks came on the 20th anniversary of a UN treaty, ratified by 72 countries, that aims to bring an end to the death penalty.

"In the 20 years since it (the treaty) was adopted, the number of formally abolitionist states has almost tripled, and where there was once a majority of states that wanted to keep the death penalty, they are now in the minority," Pillay said.

"In all, around 140 states are believed to have now abolished the death penalty either formally, or in practice."

Pillay said the abolition of capital punishment was a difficult process for many societies and often could only come about after a national debate.

"Until they reach that point, I urge those states still employing th…

Carlton Gary execution stopped by Georgia Supreme Court

In a 5-2 vote, the Supreme Court of Georgia today granted Carlton Gary's motion for a stay of execution and ordered the Muscogee County Superior Court to conduct a hearing on his request for DNA testing.

Gary, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1986 for the rapes and strangulation murders of 3 elderly women in Columbus, was due to be executed tonight at 7 p.m.by lethal injection. Gary's attorneys have claimed that DNA testing of hair, semen and fingernail scrapings found on his alleged victims was not available at the time of his conviction.

All justices concurred in today's decision except Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and Presiding Justice George Carley, who dissented.

Source: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, December 16, 2009

Kentucky releases plan for execution procedure

Kentucky released its execution protocols for the 1st time Wednesday, and the public and legislators will get a chance to comment on the rules next year.

It's ultimately up to Gov. Steve Beshear to readopt the procedure or any changes.

The protocol covers a variety of areas, ranging from how quickly an inmate must become unconscious to when a coroner and physician are called in to certify death.

After fighting for several years to keep the protocol secret, the state released it just weeks after the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that it hadn't been properly adopted. The court barred any executions until the method was redone.

The ruling didn't challenge the technique, which is used by dozens of other states and has passed U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny in a case brought by Kentucky death row inmate Ralph Baze.

The protocol will be opened to public comment in January. Various legislative committees then review it before it goes to the governor for approval. It couldn't take e…

Execution date set in February for Wyoming's only death-row inmate

A judge says Dale Wayne Eaton, Wyoming's only death-row inmate, is scheduled to be put to death on Feb. 12.

Natrona County District Judge David Park set the date during a death warrant hearing on Monday.

Diane Courselle, director of the University of Wyoming's Defender Aid Program, says they'll go to federal court to ask for a stay of execution.

Eaton has been on death row since 2004 for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell, who disappeared in 1988 while driving from Denver to Billings, Mont.

The Wyoming Supreme Court has twice rejected appeals filed by Eaton's attorneys.

Source: Associated Press, December 16, 2009

China injects "humanity" into death sentence

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BEIJING - Beijing municipality's No 1 Detention Center is one of the top penitentiaries in China, but there are no signs to guide visitors there. Abandoned yards and demolished factories surround a complex that seems like an island in the middle of an ocean. If the cells had windows - that's not the case - prisoners would be able to see only construction sites in the distance.

Unlike the adjacent heavily fortified Beijing Second Prison, No 1 has no special security measures for its perimeter - only high walls and closed-circuit TV cameras. The guards are the same unarmed young migrant workers in oversized uniforms that one sees patrolling local residential areas. They even have time to play with two stray dogs that regularly wander across the main check point.

The scene is quiet, but the facility is often the focus of media attention, due to the notorious political and white-collar prisoners detained for sentencing in it. Public interest in the center is likely to grow even more…