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Showing posts from October, 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…

Texas: Hundreds of people march against the death penalty

Death penalty protestors gather in front of the Texas State Capitol every year on the weekend before All Souls' Day, or The Day of the Dead, which falls on November second. This Tuesday happens to also be Election Day.
For the men leading the procession from the Capitol, down Congress Avenue to 6th Street, it’s a tough walk. They were once on Death Row. Evidence exonerated them. The journey's been an especially hard one for Gregory Wilhoite. After he was freed, an accident put him in a wheelchair.
“For whatever reason, I'm convinced that God's got a job for me, so I'm a man on a mission, and the mission is educating people about the realities of capital punishment,” Wilhoite says.
He used to be pro death penalty until he found himself on death row for a crime that evidence would later show he did not commit. Another Death Row survivor, Shujaa Graham, says he made a lot of promises while he was there.
“I promised a lot of prisoners that once I was released from…

Justice, Singapore Style - An Open Letter from Alan Shadrake to the Singapore Government

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I am being prosecuted and facing jail for exposing prosecutorial scandals in Singapore – scandals this PAP dictatorship doesn’t want decent Singaporean citizens to know about. One particular heinous scandal concerns Guiga Lyes Ben Laroussi, a Tunisian and valuable ‘foreign talent’ who was the main drug supplier to Singapore’s so-called High Society Drug Circle in 2004.
This destroyer of lives was allowed to escape Singapore after facing a mandatory death penalty charge. The charge was then ‘negotiated’ down so he would receive a jail sentence of between 20 and 30 years in prison instead.
Then another miracle happened: He was allowed bail in the sum of $280,000, given his passport back and allowed to leave Singapore. This could only have been done with the connivance of top government officials because they feared he would expose bigger names if he were to be sent to the gallows.
I exposed this and other prosecutorial scandals in my book Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the …

Pakistan: Death Row Convicts Bear Brunt of Torture

Rights groups are up in arms over reports of abuse and torture of prisoners.
As if being sentenced to death is not enough punishment, those on death row in Pakistan are also among those being singled out for abuse by jail personnel.
This is according to rights groups that are already up in arms over how torture seems to have become far too common in Pakistani prisons.
In September, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HCRP) discovered that 3 inmates in a Punjabi jail had developed renal ailments after being tortured by jail staff. 2 of them are on death row.
"Those on death row are considered expendable relative to the fact that they are already condemned," says Rafia Zakaria, a Pakistan-born director at the human rights monitor Amnesty International.
There is tacit tolerance of the torture for those facing capital punishment. Explaining the prevailing attitude, rights campaigner Zohra Yusuf says, "They (death row inmates) are guilty of heinous crimes and so …

Barbecue, bearhugs and no looking back; First full day as free man finds Anthony Graves praying it's not just a dream

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Anthony Graves spent his first full day of freedom in almost two decades eating barbecued ribs, visiting with happy supporters who had diligently pressed his case and insisting to all who cared that he bore no malice toward those who railroaded him onto Texas' death row for a crime in which authorities now say he had no part.
Graves said he was enjoying just soaking in the free world, which he had not seen since August 1992, and praying that it was not merely a dream that would end with the sharp clank of heavy cell door or a painful twinge from a hard steel bunk.
"It's still a surreal moment for me," Graves told reporters on Thursday, calmly entertaining every question with a smile. "I've tried to understand as best I could what I'm feeling, but I still haven't been able to. I was going through my own personal hell for 18 years, then one day I walk out."
Graves, 45, was released Wednesday from Burleson County Jail, where he has been for the last f…

Five hanged in Tehran

October 27, 2010: Five people have been hanged in Tehran during the past few days.
The Iranian state run new agency ISNA, quoting Tehran’s chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi wrote: "During the past 2-3 days five people have been hanged in Tehran convicted of drug trafficking". Dolatabadi also said that the Iranian authorities will continue their fight against the drug dealers seriously".
No further detailed were given about those executed.
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights condemned these executions and said:" The main purpose of these executions is not to fight against drug trafficking, but to spread fear among the young people who want real changes in Iran".
He added:" The victims of the Iranian authority’s execution machinery are among the weakest in the Iranian society".
He ended:" None of these executions have been reported by the Iranian media, confirming that the number of the executions is much higher than t…

Prime Minister Julia Gillard tight-lipped on Corby, Bali Nine talks

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says any representations she makes to Indonesia on behalf of Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine will be done in private.
Ms Gillard will visit Indonesia next week on the way back from the East Asia Summit in Vietnam.
Corby is trying to have her 20-year sentence for drug smuggling reduced, while three members of the Bali Nine are still facing the death penalty for their role in a smuggling plot.
Ms Gillard told ABC News 24's Chris Uhlmann that it would be inappropriate to say if she was going to lobby Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on behalf of the Australians.
"Clearly, Australia does not support the death penalty - that is our position as a nation," she said.
"But when it comes to advocacy on behalf of individuals, it's certainly in the best interests of those individuals to be doing those discussions privately, rather than publicly, and I intend to."
Source: ABC News, October 28, 2010

Prosecutors blast former DA who handled Graves case; Freed DR inmate speaks out

Prosecutors today blasted Charles Sebesta, the former district attorney for Washington and Burleson counties, accusing him of hiding evidence and tampering, then threatening witnesses to convict Anthony Graves of capital murder in 1994.
Graves was released from jail Wednesday after spending 18 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
Answering questions about the release today, Kelly Siegler, a special prosecutor working for District Attorney Bill Parham, said the case was "horrible."
"Charles Sebasta handled this case in a way that could best be described as a criminal justice system's nightmare," Siegler said. "It's a travesty, what happened in Anthony Graves' trial."
Sebesta responded to the allegations today and maintained that Graves is guilty.
"I would not have tried him if I didn't believe he was guilty," Sebesta said.
Siegler said Sebesta indicted a woman without any evidence, fabricated evidence, manipulated witnesses …

Ugandan anti-gay measure will be law soon, lawmaker says

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The member of the Ugandan Parliament behind a controversial "anti-gay" bill that would call for stiff penalties against homosexuality -- including life imprisonment and the death penalty -- says that the bill will become law "soon."
"We are very confident," David Bahati told CNN, "because this is a piece of legislation that is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa, and also protect the future of our children."
Governments that have donated aid to Uganda and human rights groups applied massive pressure since the bill was proposed a year ago, and most believed that the bill had been since shelved.
Not so, says Bahati, adding, "Every single day of my life now I am still pushing that it passes."
His statements come in the wake of a global outcry over a tabloid publication of Uganda's "top 100 homosexuals" that included pictures and addresses of Ugandans perceived to be gay.
The Ugandan newspaper R…

Two teenage girls executed by Somali militants

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(CNN) -- A Somali militant group publicly executed two teenage girls Wednesday after accusing them of being spies for the Somali government, according to the group, eyewitnesses and a relative of one of the girls.
"Those two girls were evil and they were spies for the enemy (the Somali government), but the mujahedeen caught them and after investigation, they admitted their crime, so they have been executed," said Sheikh Yusuf Ali Ugas, commander of Al-Shabaab in Beledweyne, a town in central Somalia.
The teens were blindfolded with their hands behind their backs against a tree, and shot, according to a local journalist.
A resident of Beledweyne told CNN that Al-Shabaab called on the town's residents to come out and watch the execution.
"Hundreds of people came out to watch the execution," he said. "It was very bad ... the girls looked shocked and were crying but [no one] could help."
A relative of one of the teens denied they were spies.
"My cousin, Ay…

Cruel and Usual: Is Capital Punishment by Lethal Injection Quick and Painless?

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About 2/3 of the states use a combination of barbituric, paralytic and toxic agents for executions, despite a lack of scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness. Although the procedure may be subject to FDA approval, the agency has avoided any ruling on the cocktail's efficacy in delivering a merciful death.
A shortage of sodium thiopental, a fast-acting barbiturate and general anesthetic used in lethal injections of death-row convicts, has delayed several such executions throughout the U.S. and reignited a long-standing debate over the combination of chemicals used to carry out capital punishment. Most recently, Arizona inmate Jeffrey Landrigan was executed Tuesday night only after a delay caused by a legal battle over the source and quality of the sodium thiopental used as part of the lethal injection.
Lethal injection is used for capital punishment by the federal government and 36 States, at least 30 of which use the same combination of three drugs: sodium thiopental (a b…

British company denies exporting drug used in US execution after Arizona's supplies run dry

The British manufacturer of a drug used in the execution of an American man this week has denied knowingly exporting the products used to carry out the death penalty.
It emerged yesterday that a British company supplied drugs used by Arizona to execute a convicted killer in the death chamber.
Murderer Jeffrey Landrigan died at 6.26am yesterday by lethal injection at Florence prison in Arizona.
A nationwide shortage of the anaesthetic sodium thiopental - used to knock out the condemned inmate before two more drugs paralyse muscles and stop the heart - has slowed the number of executions carried out in the United States recently.
Landrigan's lawyers won a brief stay of execution after state authorities refused to reveal its supplier but when that was lifted Arizona revealed that the drug had been supplied by a UK company.
It is the first time a state has acknowledged obtaining the drug from outside the US since the shortage arose earlier this year.
It is possible that the UK supplier is …

Texas: Anthony Graves Released from Death Row, Case Dismissed

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HOUSTON (AP) - A man sent to Texas death row for the 1992 slaughter of a central Texas family is now a free man after prosecutors dropped the capital murder charges against him.
Anthony Graves walked out of the Burleson County Jail in Caldwell on Wednesday.
He had been convicted of helping Robert Earl Carter kill Bobbie Joyce Davis; her 16-year-old daughter, Nicole; and four grandchildren between the ages of 4 and 9 in the family's Somerville home.
But the only evidence tying Graves to the killings was Carter's testimony, and Carter recanted that testimony just before his 1998 execution.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ordered a new trial for Graves in 2006. A report in the October issue of Texas Monthly magazine raised new questions about the lack of evidence tying Carter to the crimes.
Source: KETKNBC.com, October 28, 2010
Prisoner ordered free from Texas' death row
After 18 years of incarceration and countless protestations of innocence, Anthony Graves fin…

URGENT APPEAL for Russell Mezan, a Bangladeshi national sentenced to death for murdering a Kuwaiti man

On 24 October, the Supreme Appeal Court of Bahrain upheld the death sentence of Russell Mezan, a Bangladeshi man sentenced to death after being convicted of murdering a Kuwaiti man.
Russell Mezan was sentenced to death on 23 March 2010 by the High Criminal Court of Bahrain. He was convicted of the premeditated murder of a Kuwaiti man in a hotel in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, on 7 March 2009. Russell Mezan’s lawyer lodged an appeal against the sentence on the same day it was issued, as Russell Mezan said that he and the Kuwaiti man were drunk on the night of the murder and that he did not intend to kill him.
The case was heard before the Supreme Appeal Court of Bahrain on 24 October and the death sentence was upheld. Amnesty International delegates visiting Bahrain met Russell Mezan’s lawyer on 25 October, who confirmed that he will appeal to the Court of Cassation within 45 days. If the appeal fails, the death sentence will then pass to the King for final ratification within two o…