California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Ecuador: Indian town drops death penalty in murder case

An Indian community that sentenced a young man to death by hanging for the murder of another man softened his punishment Sunday, ordering him to do five years of community service instead.

Orlando Quishpe, 21, was also subjected to punishments that included carrying a heavy sack of dirt, an ice-water bath and a public whipping with a thorny plant while he was forced to beg forgiveness.

Ecuador's attorney general had threatened legal action against the community after it ordered Quishpe's execution last week, because the South American nation does not allow the death penalty.

The Indians refused the government's request that the suspect be handed over to the regular courts. Ecuador's constitution recognizes indigenous justice as long as it does not violate the charter or human rights.

An assembly of residents in La Cocha, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) from the capital, debated for 6 hours Sunday and dropped the death penalty.

They decided Quishpe will carry out "5 years of work in the field," community leader Ricardo Chaluisa told reporters. He said the work would be supervised by members of Quishpe's home community, Guantopolo.

Before he was turned over to leaders from Guantopolo, Quishpe, who works as a carpenter and is in a rock band, underwent a day of punishment.

Nearly naked, he first was made to hold a sack of dirt for 10 minutes. Tied to a whipping post, he was doused in an icy bath and beaten with nettles while he apologized to the townspeople – although he denied any guilt in the slaying of Marco Olivo, 21.

Olivo was beaten and then hanged with a belt on May 9. Town leaders accused Quishpe of using his belt in the killing. No motive for the attack has been released.

4 other young men underwent a day of punishment for the crime a week ago. The community said they confessed to participating in the attack.

Source: Associated Press, May 29, 2010

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