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Showing posts from December, 2010

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No Second Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

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Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. The state shouldn't get a second chance.
The pathos and problems of America's death penalty were vividly on display yesterday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after its failure Gov. John Kasich set June 5, 2019, as a new execution date.
This plan for a second execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal standards governing botched executions in the United States.
Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.
By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America's death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.
The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with serious ailm…

UAE: Court sets precedent for death penalty application

ABU DHABI -- The emirate's highest court has ordered a convicted murderer to be retried under an alternative Islamic school of legal thought that may allow for him to be sentenced to death.
The ruling by the Abu Dhabi Court of Cassation is a legal precedent in a case in which the killer was sentenced by two lower courts to 15 years in prison, instead of the death penalty, because he was a Muslim and the victim was not.
Abu Dhabi courts and the Federal Supreme Court hear cases under the Maliki school of Islamic legal thought, which includes rulings that a Muslim who murders a non-Muslim cannot face execution.
In this case, the Abu Dhabi Court of Cassation ordered it be tried under Hanafi teachings, the only Sunni school of jurisprudence that calls for the death penalty if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim.
The current case, from 2008, involved a Sudanese Muslim man who murdered a Christian woman from Ethiopia by stabbing her 17 times.
The Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance found him g…

Cuba Supreme Court Commutes Death Sentence

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HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 29 – The Supreme Court of Cuba decided to commute for a 30-year sentence Humberto Eladio Real Suárez’ death sentence. He was tried in 1994 for landing on the island with the aim of carrying out subversive actions against the government. This was the last of the maximum sentences that still remained in the Caribbean island nation, whose authorities have not applied it since 2003, reported IPS.
AP noted: “On Oct. 15, 1994, Real and six other members of a Florida-based exile group came ashore in northern Cuba, armed with assault rifles and other weapons. A man was killed, and the group was captured shortly thereafter. Real received the death penalty, and the others got lengthy prison sentences.”
Source: Havana Times, December 29, 2010

Cuba commutes death sentence against US man

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba's Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted the death sentence against a Cuban-American who was the last person remaining on death row in the island nation, according to a veteran hu…

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable given ultimatum over execution drugs

Legal action charity Reprieve has given Business Secretary Vince Cable 72 hours to ban the export of execution drugs to the US or face legal action.
The charity's director Clive Stafford Smith wrote to Mr Cable yesterday giving him until close of business on December 30 to end the export of sodium thiopenthal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride - all used in the lethal injection process - to the US by British firms.
Reprieve argued that the government's failure to prevent the exports is in breach of European human rights law and Britain's own publicly stated opposition to the death penalty.
The charity has already brought one successful legal action against the government over is failure to place a moratorium on the export of sodium thiopenthal.
A shipment of the British manufactured drug has already been used in the execution of at least one death row inmate, Jeffrey Landrigan in Arizona.
As a result of the action, Mr Cable was forced to ban the export of the chemical …

Bangladeshi national executed in Saudi Arabia

December 22, 2010: Saudi Arabia beheaded Bangladeshi national Kirun Abdelghani in Jeddah province for murdering a fellow Bangladeshi Ogel Dali by hitting him on his head with metal scissors and then stealing his money, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
Source: Agence France Presse, December 22, 2010

Iran executes man as Israeli spy, hangs opposition group member

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Iran Human Rights, December 28: According to the reports from Iran two political prisoners were hanged at Tehran’s Evin prison early this morning.
The prisoners are identified as Ali Saremi (63) convicted of Moharebeh (war with God) through membership in PMOI (Mujahedin-e-khalgh) and Ali Akbar Siadat convicted of espionage for Israel.
Ali Saremi is a well known political prisoner who was last time arrested in 2007, for holding a speech at the 19th anniversary of the 1988 massacre of the political prisoners in Iran. Last year he was sentenced to death by jugde Salavati in Tehran. His charges are membership in a mohareb group (PMOI) and "propaganda against the establishment".
Ali Saremi had been arrested several time during the past 20 years for his political acivities.
Ali AKbar Siadat was arrested in 2007 and later convicted for providing sensitive information to Israel. Iran Human Rights can not confirm Mr. Siadat’s charges.
These executions happen only two days after the schedu…

Santa Was in Prison and Jesus Got the Death Penalty

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As Christmas is celebrated in Incarceration Nation, it’s worth remembering certain things about the two figures who dominate this holiday.
As more than 3,000 Americans sit on death row, we revere the birth of a godly man who was arrested, “tried,” sentenced, and put to death by the state. The Passion is the story of an execution, and the Stations of the Cross trace the path of a Dead Man Walking.
Less well known is the fact that Saint Nicholas, the early Christian saint who inspired Santa Claus, was once a prisoner, like one in every 100 Americans today. Though he was beloved for his kindness and generosity, Nicholas acquired sainthood not only by giving alms, but in part by performing a miracle that more or less amounted to a prison break.
As we described in one of our earliest posts on Solitary Watch, Nicholas was the 4th-century Greek Bishop of Myra (in present-day Turkey). Under the Roman emperor Diocletian, who persecuted Christians, Nicholas spent some five years in prison–and acco…

Indonesia lightly cuts 2 Australians' prison terms

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia cut some time off the prison terms of 7,300 inmates, including two Australian women convicted of drug smuggling, a media report said Saturday.
Holiday remissions are traditional in Indonesia for some inmates with good behavior, except those on death row or serving life in prison.
The official Antara news agency quoted Patrialis Akbar, minister of the law and human rights, as saying 7,324 prisoners received sentence reductions ranging from 15 days to two months.
Australians Schapelle Leigh Corby and Renae Lawrence, who are serving 20-year terms in Bali, had their sentences slashed by 45 days each, Antara reported.
Corby, who was a former beauty student was convicted in May 2005 of smuggling 9 pounds (4.2 kilograms) of marijuana onto the resort island. Now 33, she asked for clemency in March, citing her poor mental state.
Lawrence, also 33, is one of nine Australians found guilty in April 2005 of attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms (18.3 pounds) of h…

UN General Assembly Approves New Resolution For Universal Moratorium on Death Penalty

December 22, 2010: The United Nations General Assembly yesterday approved a new resolution in favour of a universal moratorium on the death penalty. It is the third time after the historic resolution approved in December 2007 and then again in December 2008.
108 countries voted in favour, with 41 against and 36 abstentions (another 7 countries were absent at the time of the vote). It recorded a decisive step forward compared to 2007 when in a plenary assembly the votes in favour were 104, with 54 against and 29 abstentions (with 5 absent at the time of the vote). Another step forward was taken also in respect to the second vote on the pro moratorium Resolution in December 2008 when there were 105 in favour, 47 against and 34 abstentions (6 were absent at the time of the vote).
The most significant political data regarding the favourable is that of 6 countries that in 2008 voted against (Kiribati, the Maldives and Mongolia) or abstained (Bhutan, Guatemala and Togo) or the abstentions of …

Iran: Execution of Kurdish political prisoner Habibollah Latifi postponed

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Iran Human Rights, December 26: According to the reliable sources in Iran, execution of the political prisoner Habiollah Latifi, who was scheduled to take place early this morning, has been postponed.
Habibollah Latifi’s lawyer and family have confirmed the news.
Since the news of his scheduled execution became known to the public, a campaign was started by the activists inside and outside Iran to save his life. There were several gatherings in protest against the scheduled execution in different cities around the world. According to some sources, last night, about 300 people had gathered in protest outside the Sanandaj prison, where he was being held.
Mr. Latifi’s family have thanked all the people who took part in this campaign and said: "We now know that your efforts will give results and that our Habibollah is not alone".
Commenting this news, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights said: "We are very happy that the efforts of the civil rights def…

Iran: Seven hanged on Christmas day; Kurdish political prisoner Habibollah Latifi scheduled to be executed Dec. 26

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Iran Human Rights, December 25: According to the news from Iran, three men were hanged in two different Iranian towns on Christmas day.
According to the state run Iranian news agency ISNA, two men were hanged in the prison of Saveh (southwest of Tehran). The men were identified as "Ahmad Amini Sangar" convicted of keeping 552 grams of heroin, 40 grams of crack and 20 grams of opium; and "Hassan Davtalab" (50 years old) convicted of keeping 2 kilos and 250 grams of heroin; according to the report. The men were executed in the prison of Saveh early this morning.

According to ISNA, another man, who wasn’t identified by name, was hanged in the prison of Sari, north of Iran, convicted of keeping and trafficking of crack.

The state run Iranian news agency Fars reported reported about execution of four other prisoners in the prison of Ahvaz, southwest of Iran. The prisoners were identified as "A. A." convicted of keeping 224 grams of heroin, "H. M." con…

Residents of Hunstville, Texas, say there's more to life than death row

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Every execution in Texas since 1924 has been carried out in the Huntsville Unit, which has been aptly dubbed "the Walls." The Rev. Jesse Jackson has marched here; Katie Couric has reported live from here. Residents say they can tell when there's a controversial execution — they notice the strangers in town.
"Inside Huntsville, people don't even know when there's an execution," unless it's high profile, said Bill Williamson, a state police officer whose father worked at the Walls. "They know it's a part of life, and that's what happens."
But Huntsville's residents have a precarious relationship with its prisons. In addition to the Walls, there are four more prisons within Huntsville's city limits and five more nearby.
The prison system is one of the biggest employers in Huntsville (note to the unemployed: they're hiring), and practically everyone in town falls within a couple degrees of separation from someone who makes a l…

Ohio only state to execute more in 2010

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Ohio continued to buck a national trend on the death penalty this year, ranking second in the nation to Texas in the number of executions.
Ohio had eight men lethally injected, making it the only state to increase executions in 2010, according to the annual report by the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization in Washington, D.C.
The total would have been higher had Gov. Ted Strickland not spared the lives of two convicted killers: Kevin Keith of Crawford County and Sidney Cornwell of Mahoning County.
Strickland, who will leave office Jan. 9, said yesterday that he feels "terrible" that Ohio was the only state in which executions rose this year. "It's one of the responsibilities of governing that I won't mind giving up," he said.
But Strickland also said that some murderers deserve the death penalty. "In a perfect world, we wouldn't have a death penalty," he said. "But there are some people who are so terribly …

Death Sentence Executions Rare In Oregon

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- A Marion County jury recommended the death penalty Wednesday for a father and son convicted in a bank bombing that killed two police officers.
There are currently 36 men, now including Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, on death row in Oregon. A death penalty execution has not happened in the state since 1997.
Even after someone is sentenced to death, appeals and legal proceedings can keep them on death row for years.
But, knowing exactly how long the Turnidges could remain on death row is difficult to say.
"The most we can say is how long it is taking right now. And, right now it's taking in excess of 20 years," said Jeff Ellis, the capitol resource counsel for Oregon.
"Oregon has only executed two people in what we call the modern era, since the death penalty was re-instated by the United States Supreme Court. And, both of those people gave up their appeals. In other words, they said to courts, 'I don't want to appeal anymore. I want to be executed,&#…

Doubts about the death penalty emerging in Texas

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In the past, Texas has appeared unwavering in its support for the death penalty.
Even as other states explored alternatives or abolished capital punishment altogether, Texas was resolute.
But new numbers tell a different story, suggesting that doubt is creeping into the state's psyche. While Texas is still No. 1 with a bullet, carrying out more than twice as many executions as any other state, the number of new death sentences has plummeted.
In 2010, only eight Texas juries sentenced someone to die – a record low since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Compare that with 1999, when 48 juries in our state handed down death sentences.
The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which detailed this downward shift in a new report, dubbed this the Year of Doubt.
In Texas, as in other states, multiple factors likely have contributed to the declining number of death sentences. Life in prison without parole has emerged as a viable punishment option. The exorbitant costs associat…

China: Criminal Law Draft Amendment Unchanged in Reducing Number of Crimes Subject to Death Penalty

December 20, 2010: A draft amendment to China's Criminal Law remained unchanged in reducing the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.
The draft amendment was submitted today to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, for its second reading.
In August this year, the NPC Standing Committee discussed the draft amendment during its first reading. The draft amendment will make 13 crimes exempt from capital punishment, if it becomes law.
The current law allows the death penalty for 68 crimes. The draft amendment, if passed, will reduce that number to 55.
Source: Xinhuanet.com, December 20, 2010

Italian Hospira Affiliate Guarantee on Pentothal

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December 20, 2010: the Italian heads of American company Hospira have made themselves widely available to collaborate with Italian authorities, accepting that the production and sale of Pentothal will be exclusively authorised for medical purposes. They have committed to not selling the product to foreign jails and to inserting in contracts with distributors a clause that specifies that the product is not allowed for the practice of lethal injection, according to the resolution of the accord.
A note from the Foreign Affairs department outlined this, after a meeting today between the minister and the heads of the Italian affiliate of Hospira and the directors of the technical ministers involved.
Tomorrow, the note emphasised, the UN approves the third resolution on the moratorium on the death penalty and on the same day the Chamber will discuss a motion presented by Elisabetta Zamparutti on the possible exportation to the USA, by the Italian affiliate of multinational American Hospira, o…

Executions decline by 12 percent in US

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Washington D.C. - The number of executions carried out in the United States dropped by 12 percent in 2010. Commentators attributed the decline to changing attitudes on the practice but also cited problems with the availability of lethal injection chemicals and lengthy appeals processes.
The anti-execution Death Penalty Information Center has issued a report counting 46 executions in Texas, Ohio, Alabama, Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, Utah and Washington in 2010.
In 2009 there were 52 executions in 16 states.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the organization, told the Associated Press that the nation “continued to move away from the death penalty in 2010.” He noted concerns about the high financial costs of the death penalty at a time of budget cuts, concerns about executing the innocent and concerns about unfairness in application.
Scott Burns, executive director of the National Association of District Attorneys, said that appeals have added s…

UN votes to reinstate resolution condemning execution of gays

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The United Nations General Assembly has voted to restore a reference to sexual orientation in a resolution opposing the unjustified killings of minority groups.
Last month, a UN panel deleted a reference to gays and lesbians in resolution introduced by Morocco and Mali. The vast majority of countries in support were African or Arabic.
Many of the supporting countries criminalise homosexuality and five treat it as a capital offence.
But today, the UN General Assembly voted 93 in favour of the United States’ proposal to restore the reference to sexual orientation, 55 countries voted against and 27 abstained. The assembly then approved the amended resolution with 122 in favour, none against and 59 abstentions.
The amendment passed last month called for the words “sexual orientation” to be replaced with “discriminatory reasons on any basis”. The resolution made explicit reference to a large number of groups, including human rights defenders, religious and ethnic minorities and street children…

Saudi man executed for murder of compatriot

December 21, 2010: A Saudi man sentenced to death for killing a fellow citizen was beheaded on Tuesday in the Red Sea industrial city of Yanbu, said the interior ministry.
Mitaab Al Sanani, shot dead another Saudi, Nayef Al Dhabiani, the ministry said in a statement published through state news agency SPA, without giving further details.
Source: AFP, December 21, 2010

Yemeni authorities called upon to commute juvenile offender's death sentence

Amnesty International today called upon the Yemeni authorities to halt the imminent execution of a young man for a crime he is alleged to have committed at the age of 15. (More here)
"We are urgently appealing to President Ali Abdullah Saleh to show clemency in the case of alleged juvenile offender Muhammed Taher Thabet Samoum," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. "We call for him to be saved from execution -- the ultimate cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment -- and for his death sentence to be commuted."
As President Ali Abdullah Saleh has now ratified Muhammed Taher Thabet Samoum's death sentence, he is at imminent risk of execution. Muhammed Taher Thabet Samoum has been sentenced to death for a murder he is alleged to have committed in May 2002. Although he does not have a birth certificate, he maintains that he is now 24 years old, which would make him 15 years old at the time of the offence.