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“River of Fire”: In New Memoir, Sister Helen Prejean Reflects on Decades of Fighting Executions

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The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to resume the death penalty after a more than 15-year moratorium. This week Attorney General William Barr proposed fast-tracking executions in mass murder cases, and last month ordered the execution of five death row prisoners beginning in December. The federal government has executed just three people since 1963 — the last being in 2003. The death penalty is widely condemned by national governments, international bodies and human rights groups across the world. Experts say capital punishment does not help deter homicides and that errors and racism in the criminal justice system extend to those sentenced to death. We speak with Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known anti-death-penalty activist who began her prison ministry over 30 years ago. She is the author of the best-selling book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” which was turned into an Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. …

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

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