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Showing posts from November, 2010

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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…

Missouri: The future of the death penalty

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Missouri has executed 67 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Only Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Florida have carried out more death sentences since that time.
Missouri did not put anyone to death until 1989, but executions reached an all time high in the state from 1990 to 1999. During that time, 40 prisoners were executed by lethal injection. Texas and Virginia were the only states to execute more prisoners in those 10 years.
Death sentences reached their highest peak in Missouri in 1988, when 17 prisoners were condemned to die after being found guilty of 1st degree murder. In 1999, the state carried out nine executions, the most in Missouri since the death penalty was reinstated.
"That is a reflection of where the death penalty was in the 90s," said Corinne Farrell, Communications and Education Director at the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C. "Tons of people were being sentenced to death, and it was very popular."
A stall in th…

Tennessee Supreme Court Halts Executions for 4 death row Inmates

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order staying the execution of Stephen Michael West scheduled for Nov. 30 to allow the trial court to test the constitutionality of the state’s new lethal injection procedure.
Pending the resolution of this issue, the Court has also stayed the scheduled executions for Billy Ray Irick, Edmund Zagorski and Edward Jerome Harbison.
On Nov. 22, West and Irick filed motions requesting the Tennessee Supreme Court postpone their executions after a Davidson County Chancery Court ruled the state's lethal injection procedure to be unconstitutional. After a 2-day evidentiary hearing, the trial court ruled the state's current procedure did not offer a safeguard to ensure the prisoner was unconscious before the final 2 drugs are administered.
In the State's response, filed Nov. 24, they argued that a stay of execution should not be granted as it had changed its execution procedure to include a test to confirm that the inmate is unconscious before…

Tariq Aziz sentenced on crimes against Iraqi Kurds

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BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi court on Monday convicted Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's longtime foreign minister, of terrorizing Shiite Kurds during the Iran-Iraq war, sentencing him to 10 years in prison.
The jail term piles a new penalty on the 74-year-old Aziz, who already faces an execution sentence from another case.
Aziz was spared the death penalty in the Saddam-era crimes against humanity because he had a lesser involvement in the atrocities than some of his co-defendants, said Mohammed Abdul-Sahib, a spokesman for the Iraqi High Tribunal. The case involves crimes targeting Iraq's small sect of Shiite Kurds, known as Faili.
At least three former Saddam loyalists were sentenced to death in the same case, although two of the dictator's half brothers were found not guilty in the campaign against the Faili Kurds.
Saddam was a Sunni Muslim. In all, 15 defendants were charged in the case.
The small Faili minority comes mainly from an area in northeastern Iraq that straddles the Iraq-…

States ask Texas to supply ingredient for executions

As the supply of a key drug used in lethal injections dwindles, state officials are knocking on the door of the busiest execution chamber in the country for help.
Some states that have the death penalty have asked Texas for doses of sodium thiopental, the so-called knockout drug, used as part of the three-drug cocktail in executions by lethal injection, accordingto Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She would not identify the states that requested assistance.
The state has declined to make its supply available even though all of its 39 available doses are set to expire in March and there are only three executions scheduled in the state before then, Lyons said.
States — including Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky — have scrambled to acquire the drug.
Sodium thiopental renders the condemned inmate unconscious, so the prisoner does not feel pain. Hospira, the lone federally approved producer of the drug, has said new batches of the substan…

Britain restricts export of lethal injection drug to US

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British controls on sodium thiopental export means some US executions could be halted.
Business Secretary Vince Cable has said he will control the export of the anaesthetic drug sodium thiopental for use in capital punishment after campaigners took him to court.
Although it is not the outright ban for which campaigners have called, the move will make it more difficult for executions by lethal injection in a number of US states to go ahead.
A statement from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills said: "In light of new information the Business Secretary has today announced that the British Government will be placing controls on the export of sodium thiopental.
"The order will be made as soon as practicable and once in force, any person exporting this drug will require a licence issued by the Export Control Organisation."
Earlier this month, Cable was accused of "irrationality" at the High Court for his refusal to ban the export of sodium thiopental, which i…

Former Justice John Paul Stevens Criticizes Death Penalty

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WASHINGTON — In 1976, just six months after he joined the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens voted to reinstate capital punishment after a four-year moratorium. With the right procedures, he wrote, it is possible to ensure “evenhanded, rational and consistent imposition of death sentences under law.”
In 2008, two years before he announced his retirement, Justice Stevens reversed course and in a concurrence said that he now believed the death penalty to be unconstitutional.
But the reason for that change of heart, after more than three decades on the court and some 1,100 executions, has in many ways remained a mystery, and now Justice Stevens has provided an explanation.
In a detailed, candid and critical essay to be published this week in The New York Review of Books, he wrote that personnel changes on the court, coupled with “regrettable judicial activism,” had created a system of capital punishment that is shot through with racism, skewed toward conviction, infected with politic…

Iran hangs rapist

TEHRAN — Iran has hanged in prison a man convicted of raping several women in the central city of Isfahan, ISNA news agency reported on Saturday.
The man, only identified as Hossein M., was found guilty of raping several women after offering them a ride and then threatening to kill them, the report said, quoting Isfahan's judiciary.
It did not say when the hanging took place.
The latest hanging brings the number of executions in Iran to at least 145 so far this year, according to an AFP count based on media reports. At least 270 people were executed in 2009.
Iran is one of the leading countries that carry out the death penalty each year, along with China, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
The Islamic republic says the death penalty is essential to maintain public security and is applied only after exhaustive judicial proceedings.
Murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, homosexuality and adultery are all punishable by death in Iran.
Source: AFP, November 27, 2010

Saddam Hussein’s only Christian cabinet member seeks presidential pardon

Lawyers for the only Iraqi Christian in the late Saddam Hussein’s inner circle requested recently for a presidential pardon for their client from death by hanging.
Attorneys for Tariq Aziz, the former vice prime minister of Saddam Hussein, opted for a presidential pardon rather than appeal the death sentence Aziz was given for the complicity in the persecution of Shiite Muslims under Saddam, the AP said.
Aziz’ sentence sparked international requests for leniency and/or amnesty from the Vatican, Greece, Moscow and anti-death penalty European countries, the UPI said. It is largely believed that under Saddam, Christians in Iraq were protected because of Aziz.
Giovanni Di Stefano, lawyer of Aziz, said his client was hardly involved in the despot’s ethnic cleansing of the Shiites, and noted that there were no witnesses in the trial who could prove otherwise, according to the AP.
Di Stefano also cited several constitutional issues that absolve Aziz and said, “It is thus necessary that in all de…

The state Supreme Court authorizes Tennessee to use a revised method of executing inmates

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The state Supreme Court has authorized Tennessee to use a revised method of executing inmates, refusing to stop 2 executions including one Tuesday.
The court ruled Wednesday evening that the state has "a contingency procedure should the condemned inmate remain conscious."
Attorneys for Stephen Michael West and Billy Ray Irick had challenged the state protocol on grounds inmates might remain conscious while they were executed by lethal injection.
West is to be executed Tuesday. Irick is to be executed next month.
Earlier Wednesday, the state pledged that the warden will brush a hand over an inmate's eyelashes and gently shake the inmate to check for consciousness under a new lethal injection procedure.
Source: Associated Press, November 26, 2010

Warden to check for consciousness in TN executions
A prison warden will brush a hand over an inmate's eyelashes and gently shake the inmate to check for consciousness under a new lethal injection procedure that became necessary after…

Blasphemy case splits Pakistanis

PAKISTAN'S President faces mounting pressure to intervene in the case of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.
The case has drawn the Vatican's attention and sparked street protests in this Muslim-majority nation.
In a report delivered to President Asif Ali Zardari, Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti recommended that the woman, Asia Bibi, 45, be pardoned or released from prison if her pending appeal is not quickly addressed.
Mr Bhatti said he also recommended amendments to the nation's controversial blasphemy law.
The report followed calls for clemency by Pope Benedict XVI, rights groups, newspapers and the governor of the province where Bibi became the first woman condemned to hang for blasphemy.
But opponents have been equally loud, and the response of Mr Zardari's government will be viewed as a barometer of its will to stand up to hard-line religious groups, including some political allies.
Hundreds of Muslim demonstrators in Lahore threatened violence this …

China overturns 10 percent of death sentences

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BEIJING — China has overturned 10 percent of death sentences handed down in the country since the top court began reviewing them in 2007 in a bid to limit use of capital punishment, an official has said.
Most of the reversals were made due to insufficient evidence, procedural flaws, or because the penalty was too harsh, Hu Yunteng, head of research for the Supreme People's Court, was quoted saying by Friday's China Daily.
China is believed by rights groups to execute more people than the rest of the world combined, and it gave the top court final review powers in 2007 amid concerns some death sentences were unwarranted.
"We must make sure the use of the death sentence is accurate and free of mistakes to respect and protect the convicts and their rights," Hu said.
"The Supreme People's Court will not tolerate any mistakes regarding evidence or procedure and will thoroughly investigate questionable judgements."
Hu said the supreme court had overturned "on…

Indonesia: Australian man faces death penalty after being caught with 1.7 kg of methamphetamine in his luggage at Bali's airport

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AUSTRALIAN man Michael Sacatides faces the death penalty in Indonesia after being formally charged with drug importation offences yesterday.
Sacatides, 43, was caught with 1.7 kilograms of methamphetamine in his luggage at Bali's airport last month.
He maintains his innocence.
Bali police handed a dossier of evidence to prosecutors yesterday, who charged Sacatides with importing drugs, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of death by firing squad.
Sacatides is a kickboxing instructor who hails from Sydney but lived in Bangkok for several years.
He was moved to Kerobokan prison on October 27 and will join three other Australians on death row for drug offences.
Scott Rush, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have legal appeals in train.
Sacatides is expected to front a Denpasar court next month.
He has previously told police a man who gave him the bag containing the drugs was a former business associate.
Source: The Age, November 26, 2010 (local time)

Aussie charged over Bali drug smuggling

Japan jury hands down death sentence to minor

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TOKYO — Japanese jurors Thursday sentenced a teenager to hang for a double murder, the first death penalty given to a minor under the nation's newly-introduced jury system, court officials said.
The 19-year-old defendant, whose name was withheld, was convicted of stabbing to death both the sister and a friend of his girlfriend at their house in Miyagi, northern Japan, in February this year.
Under Japanese law, people under 20-years-old are tried as minors.
The teenager, who committed the murders after his girlfriend tried to end their relationship, also seriously injured another man in the attack.
"We cannot say he is fully aware of the graveness of the case," presiding judge Nobuyuki Suzuki told the Sendai District Court in Miyagi, according to Jiji Press.
"The possibility of his rehabilitation is extremely low," the judge said, adding that age was not a "decisive" factor on death penalties. The defendant was 18 years and seven months old when he killed t…

Texas: Former DR inmate Nanon Williams ordered released from prison

Abolition Movement member Lucha Rodriguez just received a phone call from Morris Moon, one of several attorneys for former death row prisoner Nanon Williams and he told her that Federal Judge Nancy Atlas has today ordered Nanon released from prison.
On August 17 Judge Atlas held a de novo on Nanon's case on the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Now, the state of Texas has 30 days to appeal this ruling by Judge Atlas. To appeal, they would have to go to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. But it was the 5th Circuit that ordered Nanon's case sent back to the Federal District Court for a de novo hearing. It seems unlikely the 5th Circuit would deny Atlas' ruling.
Nanon Williams was only 17 years old when he was arrested for capital murder in 1992. He was on Texas death row until the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the execution of juveniles in 2005. Nanon Williams is now 36 years old and at the Ramsey Unit south of Houston serving a life sentence.
Source: T…

British sodium thiopental finds its way into Arizonian death chamber

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A shortage of one of the lethal injection components has led to the drug being imported from Britain in violation of European law to carry out an execution in Arizona.
Convicted killer Jeffrey Landrigan was executed by lethal injection on October 26 for the 1989 murder of Chester Dean Dyer in Phoenix. The execution took place despite the fact that there is a nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental, the [anesthetic] agent in the 3-drug cocktail. The drug was rushed in from Britain for the execution.
Landrigan's lawyers raised questions over the quality and constitutionality of using the sodium thiopental that was imported from Britain. They argued that the drugs could be of such poor quality that Landrigan could suffer pain during his execution.
The US District Court and the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary restraining order on the execution based on this argument. The courts wanted the State of Arizona to disclose where and how it had obtained the sodium thiopenta…

Sweden enjoys 100 years without executions

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The guillotine has only been used once in Sweden: exactly 100 years ago. It was the last time a person was executed in the Scandinavian.
At the time most countries still practiced the capital punishment. Only four countries had abolished it: Colombia, Costa Rica, San Marino and Venezuela.
Today still 58 nations, such as the United States, China and Saudi Arabia, actively practice “the ultimate denial of Human Rights”, as Amnesty International calls it.
The last person to be executed in Sweden was Johan Alfred Andersson Ander, who was sentenced to death for a murder during the course of a robbery. The execution took place at Långholmen prison in Stockholm on November 23, 1910.
He was the only person in Sweden to have been executed by the guillotine. Previous decapitations were made with an axe.
Until the beginning of the 19th century hanging by the neck was reserved for commoners and beheadings reserved for nobles.
The support for the capital punishment is low in Sweden; a 2006 study shows t…

Ohio: Outgoing Governor Strickland grants mercy to 39 convicts; no DR inmate involved in clemency process

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Outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland has granted clemency to 39 people after a review of 176 cases pending from 2008.
Strickland, a Democrat, issued 33 pardons Tuesday to former inmates and commuted the sentences of 6 convicts. Those still behind bars will become eligible for parole or release. The governor denied clemency in 137 of the 2008 cases.
None of the cases involved the death penalty, and Strickland's office said most are associated with minor or nonviolent offenses.
"Executive clemency power is an important part of our justice system it provides a 2nd chance to those who have earned one and ensures that unusually long sentences are in line with similar cases," Strickland said in a statement. "This process also provides an opportunity to show mercy and forgiveness to those who have recognized what is expected of them in our society and who remain committed to being productive and responsible citizens."
Those granted mercy were convicted of sentences including thef…

John Duty: human guinea pig in Oklahoma's cruel experiment

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When Texas first used lethal injection on 7 December 1982, it was meant to usher in an era of a kinder, gentler method of capital punishment. "Fry 'em" or "String 'em up" used to be the harsh mottos of the executioner, but after the horrors of the electric chair and the gallows, some hoped that nobody would find the needle so objectionable.
Some find it counterintuitive that an anaesthetic can cause pain during an execution, but if the anaesthetic does not work, then the prisoner is first paralysed and then poisoned in a particularly painful way. Unfortunately, the probability of such a mistake is very high, no matter what the drug the executioner may use.
Doctors' ethics prohibit them from taking part in an execution, so the prison must ask one of its employees to mix up the drugs, and then "administer" them. This helps to explain why postmortems in the three most recent executions in Tennessee show insufficient anaesthetic in the prisoner'…

Man hanged in Kashan, central Iran

One man was hanged in the central Iranian town of Kashan, reported the Iranian local daily "nesfe Jahan" today.
The man who was identified as "Mahmood N." (24 years old), was convicted of keeping 500 grams of crack, and sentenced to death by the revolutionary court of Kashan, according to the report.
The execution took place inside the prison.
The charges mentioned above have not been confirmed by independent sources.
Source: Iran Human Rights, November 23, 2010 -  [فارسى]

URGENT APPEAL for Khadijeh (Shahla) Jahed at risk of imminent execution in Iran for the alleged murder of her husband's permanent wife

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Iranian media reported that a footballer's wife, Khadijeh Jahed, may be executed on 1 December. She is sentenced to death for the alleged murder of her husband's permanent wife.
Khadijeh Jahed, known as "Shahla", who had contracted a temporary marriage with Nasser Mohammad-Khani, a former striker for the Iranian national football team, was convicted of stabbing to death her husband's permanent wife. According to a 6 November 2010 report by Fars news agency, an unnamed judiciary official said that her death sentence has been sent to the Office for the Implementation of Sentences in Tehran. A 16 November 2010 report in the newspaper Vatan-e Emrooz said her execution has been set for 1 December 2010 if she is not pardoned by the victim's family. Her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, has told the Iranian Students' News Agency that he has not yet been notified of the date for her execution, which in law must be communicated at least 48 hours beforehand.
Shahla …