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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

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 fellow-villager who was also a suspect.

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 described how at that time he still didn't know why he had been arrested.

The policemen didn't ask specific questions and only asked him to confess. When his answers didn't satisfy them, he would be given an electric shock.

Chen said that, "It was worse than the electric batons. I'd rather die than be subjected to electric shocks."

According to a local newspaper called Life News that published in Heilongjiang, Chen also described how his confession was made under torture during court proceedings, describing how he suffered electric shocks to his genitals from electric batons and also how his fingers and toes were hooked up to telephone wires in order to deliver electic shocks to his body.

During the interrogation, Chen was also forced to drink chili liquid; his head was covered with plastic bags; the arch of his feet were burned with a lighter and his fingers and toes were clipped with pliers.

Chen once tried to bite his tongue in an attempt to commit suicide and was sent to the hospital for stitches. After a month's torture, Chen couldn't bear any more and said you can write whatever you want to write.

However, when putting his name to the forced confession, he still deliberately wrote the character for his family name incorrectly, he later explained, "once I'm dead, they will find my signature is fake and launch an investigation."

Yang Hongyi, who was also acquitted, said that he was also tortured to confess.

Source: The Economic Observer, November 29, 2011

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