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Showing posts from November, 2011

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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…

Belarus sentences two to death for Minsk metro bombing

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(Reuters) - A Belarus court Wednesday sentenced to death two men for carrying out a bomb attack at a central station of the Minsk metro in April this year which killed 15 people and injured scores of others.
Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov, both 25, were arrested three days after the April 11 explosion which took place on a packed platform at evening rush-hour.
The two men, friends since childhood, were said by the prosecution to have dabbled with explosives for years and been behind explosions in 2005 in their home town of Vitebsk and a separate bomb attack at Independence Day celebrations in Minsk in 2008.
Rights activists had called on authorities in the ex-Soviet republic not to impose the death sentence. Belarus is the only country in Europe to have retained the use of capital punishment. Execution is carried out by a shot from a pistol.
Describing the accused as "an extreme danger to society," judge Alexander Fedortsov said: "The court sentences (them) to the …

China to Execute Filipino Drug Trafficker Dec. 8

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A Chinese court has upheld the drug trafficking conviction of a Filipino man and set his execution for next week despite appeals for clemency from the Philippine president, officials said Wednesday.
The 35-year-old man, who was not identified, was arrested in September 2008 at Guilin International Airport in southern China while trying to smuggle 3.3 pounds (1.5 kilograms) of heroin into Guangxi province from Malaysia, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said.
Smuggling more than 50 grams of heroin or other drugs is punishable by death in China.
Philippine officials based in China were told Monday that the Supreme People's Court in Beijing had upheld a lower court's decision to impose the death penalty on the Filipino man and that a Dec. 8 execution date had been set, the department said.
The Philippine government provided all possible help to the condemned man and made "sustained and exhaustive representations with the Chinese government at all levels," includi…

Nebraska: Maker of lethal injection drug wants it back

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When the Nebraska Department of Corrections announced Nov. 3 that it recently had purchased 2 batches of sodium thiopental made by a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Switzerland, Director Robert Houston said his department was ready once more to proceed with its statutory obligation to carry out capital punishment.
But 15 days later, the CEO of the pharmaceutical company Naari wrote a letter stating the company wants its drug returned.
"Naari did not supply these medicines directly to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and is deeply opposed to the use of the medications in executions," CEO Prithi Kochhar wrote in a letter addressed to Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican and also sent to Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning.
Houston and state Attorney General's Office Spokeswoman Shannon Kingery said in statements to the Journal Star on Monday that the 485 grams of sodium thiopental purchased for $5,411 and received Oct. 25 were legall…

Court considers setting executions of 2 Arizona inmates

The Arizona Supreme Court will consider clearing the way for 2 Arizona inmates to be executed. 
The court could issue execution warrants Tuesday for Robert Henry Moormann and Robert Charles Towery. 
If their execution warrants are approved, the 2 could be put to death sometime in the next two months in Florence. 
Moormann was convicted of killing and dismembering his adoptive mother in Florence while on a prison release in 1984. 
Towery was convicted of killing a man while robbing his home in 1991. 
The last inmate to be executed in Arizona was Thomas Paul West, who was put to death July 19 for the beating death of another man in a 1987 robbery. 
Source: Associated Press, November 29, 2011

North Carolina Senate derails Racial Justice Act

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The state Senate on Monday rewrote the Racial Justice Act, a two-year-old law that allowed death-row inmates to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge their sentences.
On a 27-17 vote, senators approved Senate Bill 9, titled No Discriminatory Purpose in the Death Penalty. It now goes to Gov. Bev Perdue. There was no immediate word on whether the governor would sign the bill.
Perdue did sign the Racial Justice Act into law in 2009, saying it would ensure death sentences were imposed "based on the facts and the law, not racial prejudice."
Republican lawmakers and the state's prosecutors tried to minimize the impact of the new law, insisting it was only a fix. "This is not a repeal of the Racial Justice Act," Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington, said on the Senate floor. "It's a reform, a modification."
But earlier in the day, in response to a question from Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat, the Senate staff acknowledged that …

China: Former Death Row Inmate Describes Torture

Chen told a conference in Beijing this past weekend that on the first day he was taken from his hometown in Heilongjiang, police tortured him. He described how the police officers attached wires to his fingers and toes and electrocuted him.
Chen Ruiwu spent almost 8 years in prison after being sentenced to death by a court in Hebei in 2001 for being involved in a murder.
However, Chen was eventually acquitted of the crime in Nov 2009.
On Sunday, at a legal conference in Beijing, Chen talked of his torture at the hands of local police officers.
Chen, who's currently 42 years-old, was born in Heilongjiang and became a suspect in a serial murder case in Shengfang town in Bazhou in Hebei province ten years ago.
He was arrested on Dec. 15 in 2001 and sentenced to death after the first trial. However, on Nov. 12, 2009, Cheng was acquitted of the crime by the People's Court in Heibei.
According to Chen, police suspected he was involved in the murder because he had once had dinner with a fe…

Nigeria Senate approves bill criminalizing gay marriage, instituting long prison terms for violations

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LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigeria’s Senate voted Tuesday to criminalize gay marriage, instituting prison terms of more than a decade for violations in a nation where gays and lesbians already face discrimination and abuse.
The bill heads to Nigeria’s House of Representatives, who have to approve the bill and send it to President Goodluck Jonathan for his signature before it becomes a law. However, public opinion — and lawmakers’ calls for even harsher penalties for being gay — shows wide support for the measure in the deeply religious nation.
“Such elements in society should be killed,” Sen. Baba Dati said during the debate.
Under the measure, couples who marry could face up to 14 years in jail, and witnesses or anyone who helps couples marry could be sentenced to 10 years behind bars. That’s an increase over the bill’s initial penalties.
Homosexuality is already technically illegal in Nigeria, a country evenly divided between Christians and Muslims that is nearly universally opposed to homosexual…

Iran 'hangs nine for rape, drug trafficking'

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TEHRAN — Iran on Tuesday hanged three convicted rapists and six drug traffickers -- one of them a woman -- in different cities, local media reported.
Two of the men, aged 23 and 25, were hanged in public in the western city of Kermanshah, Fars news agency reported.
They were executed after being found guilty of raping a number of women, some of them university students. They were not identified.
Fars also said five men and one woman were hanged on Tuesday for drug trafficking, notably dealing in heroin. They were not identified either.
ISNA news agency also reported a young man convicted of rape and identified by the initials M.S. was hanged publicly on Tuesday in the central town of Saveh, some 120 kilometres (72 miles) southwest of the capital.
The hangings bring to 266 the number of executions in Iran so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on media and official reports.
Human Rights Watch counted 388 executions in Iran in 2010. Amnesty International put the figure at 252, rank…

Mali hands death penalty to French embassy attacker

BAMAKO (Reuters) - A Malian court has sentenced to death a Tunisian man accused of throwing an explosive device at the French embassy in Mali's capital in January, wounding two people, state television reported on Tuesday.
Like many countries in West Africa, Mali maintains capital punishment, but the sentences are rarely carried out and are often commuted to life imprisonment.
"In the terrorism case against Bachir Sinoun, who exploded a grenade outside the French embassy on January 5, the accused has been sentenced to death and has to pay a fine of 10 million CFA francs," the court said in its ruling issued Monday and carried by national TV on Tuesday.
Mali and its neighbours Mauritania and Niger are struggling to contain a growing threat by Islamist militants operating across West Africa's remote desert regions.
However, Malian authorities have said Sinoun, who escaped prison in March but was rearrested a few days later, was acting alone in the botched attack and had no…

Bahrain postpones protesters' death penalty appeal

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) – A civilian court in Bahrain on Monday postponed a highly anticipated ruling on the appeal of two protesters sentenced to death by a security court during a wave of anti-government protests earlier this year.
Meanwhile, another high-profile case resumed on Monday — the retrial of doctors and other medical professionals who treated protesters injured during the Shiite majority's campaign for greater rights in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom.
The medics' trial has been closely watched by rights groups that have criticized Bahrain's prosecution of civilians by the special tribunal, which included military prosecutors and judges. The tribunal was set up under martial law-style rule that was lifted in June.
In the initial trial at the security court, more than a dozen health professionals were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 years on charges of attempting to overthrow the monarchy.
Click here to read the full article
Source: USA Today, November…

Norwegian mass murderer Breivik insane; may be committed to a psychiatric institution indefinitely

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(Reuters) - Court-appointed psychiatrists have concluded that Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik is criminally insane, a prosecutor said on Tuesday, meaning he may be committed to a psychiatric institution indefinitely rather than sent to jail.
Breivik killed 77 people in July by bombing central Oslo and then gunning down dozens of mostly teenagers at a summer camp for the ruling Labour Party's youth wing.
"The conclusion is ... is that he is insane," prosecutor Svein Holden told a news conference. "He lives in his own delusional universe and his thoughts and acts are governed by this universe."
If the court accepts the psychiatrists' conclusions, the anti-immigration militant could be held as long as he poses a threat to society and may be released if found to be healthy.
Norwegian courts can challenge psychiatric evaluations or order new tests but it is rare for them to reject such a professional opinion.
If the evaluation is upheld, Breivik would no…

Saudi Arabia: Man executed for killing security official

November 25, 2011: Fahd bin Saif Al-Qahtani was executed for killing security official Hasan bin Salem Majurshi in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, an Interior Ministry statement said.
Al-Qahtani was also charged with smuggling and trafficking in qat and banned pills, drinking liquor, damaging a number of cars and carrying weapons.
Source: Arab News, November 29, 2011

Nearly 400 capital murder convicts get life without parole

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In six years, Texas has built a "lifer's row" filled with 398 prisoners who will never be released through parole - a fast-growing group that already has outpaced the number of inmates serving a death sentence in the Lone Star State, a Houston Chronicle analysis of prison records shows.
Harris County prosecutors, who historically have led the state in seeking death sentences, have so far also been the most aggressive in pursuing capital murder charges and obtaining mandatory life without parole sentences in capital cases.
Texas became the last of the death penalty states to approve life without parole in September 2005, after Harris County prosecutors dropped their opposition to the change. The law applies only to offenders convicted of capital murder.
For the first time, it gave jurors and prosecutors a non-death sentence that guaranteed someone convicted of killing a child, killing multiple victims, slaying a police officer or committing another capital crime could not be…

Iran: Man hanged in Qom's prison

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Iran Human Rights, November 27 : One prisoner was hanged in the prison of Qom (south of Tehran) reported the state run Iranian news agency Mehr today.
According to the report the prisoner who was identified as "L. A." (age unknown) was convicted of participation in smugling and keeping 430 kilograms of crack. The execution was carried out on Thursday November 24, said the report.
The report also said that another prisoner was hanged in connection with the same case on 3rd of July this year. Execution of this prisoner has not been reported by the official Iranian sources previously.
Source: Iran Human Rights, November 27, 2011

California, Like Oregon, Has a “Compromised and Inequitable” Death Penalty System

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Kitzhaber granted a reprieve to Haugen on Tuesday, and announced he would not allow any executions to go forward as long as he is in office. “I am convinced we can find a better solution that keeps society safe, supports the victims of crime and their families and reflects Oregon values,” he stated. “I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer.”
With 37 inmates on death row in Oregon, many of whom have been there for more than 20 years, Kitzhaber decried an “unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice.” Despite the wide sense the death penalty process is flawed, he maintained the state has “done nothing; we have avoided the question.”
Here in California we have strikingly similar problems only on a far larger scale. We have over 700 men and women on death row, with an average wait of well over 20 years. There have been 13 executions since the re-institution of the death penalty in 1977, and none since 2006.
One difference from Oreg…

China sentences 113 in tainted pork scandal, 1 receives death sentence

BEIJING (AP) — More than 100 people, including over a dozen Chinese government employees, have been sentenced over chemical-laced pork that caused a food safety scandal earlier this year, state media said Saturday. One person was given the death penalty.
An investigation into the safety of pork was launched in March after several farms in central Henan province were found using the fat-burning drug clenbuterol — a banned chemical that makes pork leaner but can be harmful to humans — in pig feed. A subsidiary of Shuanghui Group, China's largest meat processor, was one company selling tainted pork.
A total of 113 people have received sentences ranging from jail terms to the death penalty with a reprieve, Xinhua News Agency said, citing Henan's higher people's court. A statement on the court's website said trials involving 59 cases and 114 people had finished, but gave no details.
Of the 113 punished, 77 were either producers or sellers of clenbuterol or government employees…

Poland's opposition party wants death penalty reinstated

PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński said the penalty should be applied to those who commit exceptionally cruel murders
Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland's main opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), told journalists on Friday that his party will soon submit an amendment to the penal code calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty.
“We would like to reinstate the death penalty for exceptionally cruel murders, and in general, increase the punishment for murders,” Mr Kaczyński said.
According to the PiS party leader, Poland's average punishment for committing a murder is seven years in prison; this figure includes second degree murder.
“The nation should be protecting its honest people and combating crime, so that the average Pole can feel safe,” he added.
Mr Kaczyński said that he is aware of objections the EU administration could have to this plan. However, he said that there is no law in the EU which forbids the death penalty.
“Just because the EU elites are against it, d…

Death row inmates' desire to die renews debate

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Imprisoned on death row for the past 28 years, [Jerry] Stanley insists he deserves execution for the cold-blooded killing of his fourth wife in 1980 and for shooting to death his second wife five years earlier in front of their two children.
Despairing of the isolation and monotony of San Quentin's rooftop fortress for the purportedly doomed, Stanley earlier this year stepped up his campaign for a date with the executioner by offering to solve the cold case of his third wife's disappearance 31 years ago — by disclosing where he buried her body.
One of 718 prisoners on California's death row, Stanley has renewed an ethical debate among legal experts about whether a condemned prisoner who drops resistance to execution has been driven insane by his confinement or has accepted his fate and should be allowed a dignified end.
Since the modern era of capital punishment began with the 1977 execution of Gary Gilmore in Utah, civil rights advocates and death penalty supporters have deb…

Linda Carty: "I'm in hell on death row but I didn't kill anyone!"

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The 1st British woman to face the death penalty in 50 years has spoken from a Texan jail cell to insist she is innocent and her life is a living “hell”.
Grandmother Linda Carty, 53, has been on death row for 10 years after being found guilty in a circumstantial case of kidnapping and murdering a mother to steal her newborn baby.
Human rights groups and a raft of celebrity supporters have blasted her defence lawyer, claiming his handling of the case was shambolic.
There was no forensic evidence linking her with the abduction and the men who carried out the crime, who claimed they were acting on her orders, only confessed to doing so after making a deal to serve lesser sentences themselves if they blamed Carty.
The poor track record of her defence lawyer Jerry Guerinot – 20 people he has represented have ended up on death row – has led him to be dubbed “undertaker for the state of Texas”.
Yet all Carty’s appeals have failed, meaning that at any moment a judge could sign her death warrant lea…