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Showing posts from September, 2010

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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Brutal Execution by Pakistani Army in Swat

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An Internet video  (see below) showing men in Pakistani military uniforms executing six young men in civilian clothes has heightened concerns about unlawful killings by Pakistani soldiers supported by the United States, American officials said.
The authenticity of the five-and-a-half-minute video, which shows the killing of the six men — some of whom appear to be teenagers, blindfolded, with their hands bound behind their backs — has not been formally verified by the American government. The Pakistani military said it was faked by militants.
But American officials, who did not want to be identified because of the explosive nature of the video, said it appeared to be credible, as did retired American military officers and intelligence analysts who have viewed it.
After viewing the graphic video on Wednesday, an administration official said: “There are things you can fake, and things you can’t fake. You can’t fake this.”
The video adds to reports under review at the S…

Iran: Stop the Executions of Zeynab Jalalian and Hossein Khezri

Zeynab Jalalian and Hossein Khezri are awaiting execution in Iran. Their crime? "Enmity against God."
They are both members of the minority Party for Free Life of Kurdistan, and the Iranian government is using this catch-all phrase to persecute political dissenters under the guise of a religious charge.
Help stop the executions of Jalalian and Khezri!
Their sentencing is unjust, their treatment while imprisoned atrocious: Jalalian was granted only a few minutes of access to her lawyer and was told to "shut up" when she asked to say goodbye to her mother.
The EU "is profoundly concerned by the repeated sentencing to death in Iran of people belonging to minorities, as well as of those involved in the post-election protests." Five people were hanged for similar "offenses" on May 9.
These prisoners, and the Iranian people, deserve a fair government, fair trials, and the right to express basic human rights without punishment.
Tell Iranian authorities not t…

California Catholic Conference Statement on Ending the Use of the Death Penalty in California

Most Reverend Gerald Wilkerson, Auxiliary Bishop for the San Fernando Pastoral Region of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and President of the California Catholic Conference, released the following statement today expressing strong support for an end to the use of the death penalty in California and asking for clemency for any individual scheduled for execution.
The California Catholic Conference strongly supports an end to use of the death penalty and affirms the 2005 statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, which launched the U.S. Bishops Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty.
In light of the fact that California has scheduled the September 29, 2010 execution of Albert Greenwood Brown for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl, Susan Jordan, in 1980, we implore all Californians to ask themselves what good comes of state-sanctioned killing. We recognize the profound pain of those who lost a loved one t…

No drug-shortage delay expected in Texas executions

Texas officials said Monday that they have no plans to delay any executions because of a nationwide shortage of 1 of the lethal drugs used.
"We have 3 executions scheduled through the end of this year, and we have an ample supply to carry those out," said Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville. "At the present, we are unaffected by the shortage."
For security reasons, Texas prison officials refused to say Monday how much sodium thiopental they have on hand.
Lyons said that if the supply does not resume, Texas might have to consider alternatives.
In Texas, 3 grams of sodium pentothal is administered in an intravenous solution to render the convict unconscious, followed by 100 milligrams of pancuronium bromide to paralyze muscles and 140 milliequivalents of potassium chloride to stop the heart. The drugs are generally administered over a 5-minute period.
Source: Austin American-Statesman, September 28, 2010

India: Kasab challenges death penalty in High Court

In a fresh development in the 26/11 terror attack case, Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab today filed an appeal in Bombay High Court challenging death penalty awarded to him for killing 166 persons on November 26, 2008.
"We have filed an appeal today," his lawyer Amin Solkar told PTI.
Kasab has challenged death penalty saying it was a harsh punishment imposed a on him and pleaded that there were lapses in evidence produced by police in the trial court.
The appeal has challenged identification of Kasab in the court saying the eye witnesses had easily identified him because his photograph had appeared prominently in newspapers and television on the day of attack.
The appeal also challenged trial court's ruling which upheld Kasab's confession as "true and voluntary", Kasab's lawyer said.
Source: Press Trust of India News, September 28, 2010

Three prison escapees executed in north China

Three men who broke out of prison and killed a policeman in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in October last year, were executed Tuesday.
Qiao Haiqiang, Dong Jiaji and Li Hongbin were put to death by lethal injection in the regional capital of Hohhot.
Li had appealed the sentence, claiming he was an accessory, but the appeal was rejected by the Intermediate People's Court in Hohhot City. The court upheld his death penalty in August.
4 prisoners broke out of the prison in Hohhot. All were serving life terms.
Police launched a 3-day manhunt for the escapees involving 12,300 officers.
The 4th prisoner was shot dead while on the run.
Source: Xinhua, September 29, 2010

Outcry fails to prevent Belarus executions

Activists are demanding perssure on Belarus to ditch the death penalty.
Belarus is to go ahead with the execution of two men currently on death row, despite international pressure on the country to abandon the practice.
President Alexander Lukashenko has made tentative attempts to improve relations with Western Europe, but the death penalty remains an obstacle.
The convicted men - Oleg Grishkovtsov and Andrei Burdyko, from Grodno in western Belarus - could be executed at any time, after the country's Supreme Court turned down appeals from the pair.
Their relatives will only find out that the executions have taken place by an official letter confirming their deaths, and will not be told where the bodies are buried.
The 2 men were found guilty of killing three people during an armed robbery in a flat in Grodno last year.
They were also found guilty of taking a child hostage in the course of the robbery and setting the flat on fire, before forcing a taxi driver to help them to flee the cri…

California: Judges Cancels Albert Brown's Execution

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SAN FRANCISCO — Facing sharp questions from a federal appellate panel and concerns about a drug used in lethal injections, a federal judge in California has canceled what would have been California’s first execution in more than four years.
Albert G. Brown Jr., 56, was convicted in 1982 of raping and strangling a 15-year-old girl in Riverside, Calif., two years before and had been scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday night.
But late Tuesday, Judge Jeremy D. Fogel of Federal District Court in San Jose issued a stay after a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered him to again consider the case.
The stay came a day after California officials announced that the state’s supply of sodium thiopental, a barbiturate used in executions, was good only until Friday, a revelation that seemed to shock the appellate panel. “It is incredible to think that the deliberative process might be driven by the expiration date of the execution drug,” the pan…

California's first execution in five years delayed by legal issues

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A federal appeals court in San Francisco late Monday ordered a trial judge to reconsider a ruling that allowed for a convicted murderer and rapist to be executed this week at San Quentin State Prison.
Albert Greenwood Brown was scheduled to die at 9 p.m. Thursday for the 1980 killing of a 15-year-old Riverside girl.
But the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel erred by offering Brown a choice of a one-drug lethal injection or a three-drug cocktail.
"The district court's decision to provide Brown the choice of a one-drug option is not consistent with California state law and procedures. California law does not provide the condemned a choice between a three-drug protocol or a one-drug option," the ruling said.
The appeals court ordered the judge to schedule a new hearing.
The court's order came hours after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered a one-day delay in Brown's execution, citing a procedural complication in the state's attemp…

Saudi Arabia: Man beheaded for fatal shooting

Saudi Arabia beheaded a murderer by the sword in Medina, the interior ministry announced.
Abdulkarim bin Khalif al-Anzi was executed for shooting dead Atallah bin Mohammed al-Anzi after a dispute, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
No details were given of the date or location of the crime. The ministry said the execution was implemented after a review of the sentence by higher courts, and due to the determination of the victim's family to see that the murderer was put to death.
The beheading took to 19 the number of executions reported in the Gulf kingdom this year, according to an AFP count.
Source: Agence France-Presse, Sept. 27, 2010

Governor Postpones Execution in California

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SAN FRANCISCO — With the clock ticking and uncertainties — both legal and pharmaceutical — hovering, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered a temporary last-minute reprieve on Monday in what would be California’s first execution in more than four years.
Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican in the final weeks of his administration, announced late Monday that he would postpone the execution of Albert G. Brown Jr. — who had been scheduled to die by lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday — until Thursday to allow time for legal appeals to be exhausted. The state Department of Corrections has rescheduled the execution for Thursday evening, the governor’s office said.
Mr. Brown, 56, was convicted in 1982 of raping and strangling a 15-year-old girl in Riverside, Calif.
The postponement came after a whirlwind day in which Mr. Brown’s fortunes seemed to rise and fall with each passing hour. Earlier Monday, Mr. Brown had been denied a stay from a state judge, Verna A. Adams, in Marin County, where Sa…

Georgia executes Brandon Rhode

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Brandon Joseph Rhode was put to death Monday night by lethal injection at the state prison at Jackson. The 31-year-old man was pronounced dead at 10:16 p.m. by prison officials.

Rhode declined to speak any last words or have a final prayer.

Rhode's execution had been set for 7 p.m. but was pushed back several hours as corrections officials waited for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide on his plea for a stay of execution. The court rejected appeals later that night.

Medics then tried for about 30 minutes to find a vein to inject the three-drug concoction.

The prisoner's eyes darted around the room before the lethal mixture began coursing through his veins. Within minutes he was staring blankly at the ceiling of the death chamber. Moments before Rhode was pronounced dead he turned his head, exposing a bandage over the part of his neck he slashed.

It took 14 minutes for the lethal dose to kill him.

The U.S. Supreme Court had earlier denied an appeal claiming that Rhode was subject…

Lawyers file last minute appeals to stop 7 p.m. execution of Brandon Rhode

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JACKSON, Ga. — As Georgia authorities prepared today to put to death an inmate whose execution was postponed after he attempted suicide last week, the prisoner’s attorney contended his client is “no longer competent” and shouldn’t be executed.
Brandon Joseph Rhode is set to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. amid heightened security after he slashed his arms and throat on Sept. 21 with a disposable razor blade he hid from guards. After the attempted suicide, Rhode’s execution was first rescheduled for Friday and then pushed back until today.
Rhode was convicted in 2000 of killing Steven Moss, 37, his 11-year-old son Bryan and 15-year-old daughter Kristin during the burglary of their Jones County home. His coconspirator, Daniel Lucas, was also sentenced to death in a separate trial and remains on death row.
Rhode’s attorney, Brian Kammer, urged the Georgia Supreme Court and the state pardons board to push back the execution again so experts can evaluate whether the 31-year-old has the ment…

Texas Judge orders court of inquiry into Willingham's conviction, execution

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A Travis County judge today ordered a court of inquiry to determine if Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully convicted and executed in the deaths of his three daughters, who perished in a Corsicana house fire in 1991.
Judge Charlie Baird, who also conducted a court of inquiry that led to the exoneration of wrongfully convicted inmate Tim Cole of Fort Worth, told the Star-Telegram that he has decided to move forward with the court of inquiry into the Willingham case after reviewing a petition filed Friday by lawyers representing Willingham's relatives.
"I have decided that the petition warrants a hearing," Baird said in a telephone interview. The inquiry will be held in his courtroom on Oct. 6-7, but Baird said it could be extended if necessary.
Willingham was found guilty of deliberating setting the fire that killed his daughters -- 2-year-old Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron. The unemployed Corsicana mechanic went to his death in 2004 insisting that he was in…

California state court judge refuses to block execution

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — A California state court judge refused a death row inmate's request Monday to block his scheduled execution this week.
It's the second significant legal setback for Albert Greenwood Brown in his effort to stop the execution scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
A federal judge on Friday also refused to block the execution.
On Monday, Brown asked Marin County Superior Court Judge Verna Adams to halt his execution until a lawsuit filed by Brown and another death row inmate is resolved. The suit challenges the state's new lethal injection regulations, saying the procedures were improperly adopted.
Corrections officials revised the procedures after a federal judge halted the death penalty in California amid concern the state's method of lethal injection amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
California deputy attorney general Jay Goldman told the judge the regulations were adopted legally after a lengthy process that included public input.
Judge Adams said …

California DR Inmate Albert Brown Asks Court to Halt His Execution

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A death row inmate asked a federal appeals court on Sunday to halt his execution as he declined to choose a method for the lethal injection.
Lawyers for the inmate, Albert G. Brown, filed court papers to appeal a federal judge’s refusal to block the execution, which is set for Wednesday. Mr. Brown also let pass a noon deadline set by the judge to choose between a one-drug lethal injection or execution by a three-drug cocktail.
Mr. Brown’s refusal to choose means a three-drug cocktail will be used if the appeals court does not block his execution, which would be California’s first in nearly five years. He was sentenced to die for abducting, raping and killing a 15-year-old, Susan Jordan of Riverside County, in 1980.
Judge Jeremy Fogel of United States District Court in San Jose denied Mr. Brown’s two requests on Saturday to change his mind about going forward with the execution.
The judge initially delayed the execution in 2006 after finding that poorly trained officia…

Bali Nine: Prosecutors dismiss Scott Rush's call for clemency

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An Indonesian prosecutor has insisted on the death penalty for Australian Bali Nine drug courier Scott Rush.
Prosecutor Argitha Chandra told a panel of judges hearing Rush's appeal against the death penalty that he should be severely punished for committing a serious crime.
He dismissed testimony from former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty, who said 24-year-old Rush's role in the foiled 2005 plot to smuggle more than eight kilograms of heroin out of Bali was minor.
Mr Keelty said Rush was just a courier and knew little about the smuggling ring.
"We don't differentiate the roles," the prosecutor said, adding that "drug smuggling is a serious threat to the image of Bali" as a tourist destination.
"Narcotics are a big danger and a transnational crime and the accused should be severely punished," he said.
The case has been adjourned until October 4, when the judges will deliver their final recommendations to the Supreme Court in Jakar…

Vui Kong's story now in theatre

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PETALING JAYA: The story of condemned drug mule Yong Vui Kong will be made into a stage play. Entitled “Banduan Akhir di Sel Akhir” (The Last Prisoner in the Last Cell), the 50-minute production will be based on Yong's life story.
Directed by Shahili Abdan (popularly known as Nam Ron), Banduan will star local actor Xavier Fong as Yong, and feature the likes of Tuan “Tapai” Faisal and Dira Abu Zahar.
Commissioned by Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM), the play will be in Bahasa Malaysia, but will have English subtitles.
"This is a chance for us to show something serious in a creative way, and bring a big impact to society," said Moizzis R Cong, Banduan's scriptwriter.
A firm opponent against the death penalty, Cong believes that capital punishment does not deter crime but makes it worse.
"We had planned to do a play about the death penalty for a long time," he added.
When asked why Yong's story was chosen as the basis for the play, Nora Murat, AIM's exec…

Juvenile offender Vatan-e-Emrouz Mohammad executed in Iran

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Iran Human Rights, September 25: According to the reports from Iran a minor offender identified as Mohammad was hanged in the Marvdasht prison of Shiraz. According to these reports Mohammad, who was convicted of a murder when he was 17 years old, was hanged without his family being informed on July 10th this year.
According to the Iranian daily newspaper Vatan-e-Emrouz Mohammad (17), Reza (15), Sadegh (12), Hassan (17) and Siamak (17) were arrested in connection with rape and murder of two young boys Hamed Shiri and Karim Tajik in 2007. 
Mohammad and Reza were sentenced to death, 100 lashes and 8 years in prison for murder and rape, Siamak and Hassan were sentenced to 15 years in prison for complicity in murder and 100 lashes for sexual abuse, and Sadegh was acquitted by the court since he was ony a witness to the crimes. The sentences were approved by the Supreme court
Reza’s death sentence was later removed after paying the blood money, and he was instead sentenced to 10 years in priso…

Budgeting Life and Death

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We have no budget, no money for child care centers and college students, and no hope that these problems will be solved anytime soon. But take heart California, what we do have is a state-of-the-art death chamber. And soon we will have the best and brightest death row housing facility. Can anyone in Sacramento say “priorities”?
On September 22, “Day 83 Without a Budget,” the Governor revealed a brand new execution chamber. This was his latest leap into the budgetary black hole that is the death penalty.
While state employees have been furloughed, the inmates at San Quentin have been hard at work building the new facility to replace the rigged-up gas chamber they had been using. After a judge ruled it was too small and poorly lit to put people to death without risk of serious error, the new one boasts such improvements as a room with lights.
Its price-tag? A mere $853,000.
A few weeks earlier, back on “Day 41 Without a Budget,” the Governor “borrowed” $64 million from the state’s general f…

Texas: Willingham Lawyers Ask for Exoneration Hearing in Travis County

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Lawyers for relatives of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed for the 1991 arson murder of his 3 young daughters in Corsicana, on Friday petitioned a judge in Travis County to hear evidence and determine whether Willingham was wrongly convicted.
The lawsuit was filed with state District Judge Charlie Baird, who last year issued the state's first posthumous DNA exoneration in a rape case originally tried in Lubbock. Any hearing in the Willingham case would be equally extraordinary. Baird is a trial judge who previously had nothing to do with the Cole or Willingham cases.
Willingham’s execution has caught national attention for the specter that Texas may have killed an innocent man. Several arson experts in recent years have rejected the science that the investigators who testified at Willingham’s trial used to determine that the fire that killed his daughters was intentionally set.
The Texas Forensic Science Commission began reviewing the Willingham case in 2006 but has not reached any c…

California: Judge clears way for first execution since 2006

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A federal judge cleared the way Friday for California's 1st execution in nearly five years, citing the state's efforts to revise its lethal injection procedure and a Supreme Court ruling making it more difficult for condemned inmates to delay their death.
Barring successful appeals to other courts, convicted murderer and rapist Albert Greenwood Brown is scheduled to die on Wednesday, after U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel refused to block the execution.
Brown failed to show "a demonstrated risk of severe pain" as required by a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding Kentucky's lethal injection process, the judge said in his ruling.
Brown's execution would be the 1st in the state since Fogel placed a de facto moratorium on capital punishment in California and ordered prison officials to overhaul the process in 2006.
The attorney general's office told Fogel this week the state has complied with his order by building a new death chamber at San Quentin Sta…