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Showing posts from February, 2012

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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…

Arizona executes Robert Moormann

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Robert Moormann, who killed his mother and chopped her into pieces during a compassionate leave from prison 28 years ago, was put to death Wednesday morning by lethal injection.
Moments before the lethal injection began, Moormann smiled at the witnesses assembled behind glass nearby. In his last words, he apologized to his family and to his victim in a 1972 abduction and rape.
"I hope that this will bring closure and they can start the healing now," he said. "And I just hope they will forgive me in time."
It was the first Arizona execution carried out with a single drug instead of a three-drug cocktail. But result was the same. Execution started at 10:23 and ended at 10:33, roughly the same amount of time that the execution with the three-drug protocol took. Moormann died with a peaceful look on his face.
Moormann's execution at Arizona State Prison Complex - Florence came after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court denied last minute req…

Saudi Arabia: Convict pardoned moments before beheading

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A Saudi man sentenced to death for murder was escorted to a big square where hundreds of people gathered to watch him beheaded. Just as the executioner was about to bring his sword down on the neck of the blindfolded man, the beheading was abruptly halted amidst religious chanting by the crowd.
The event was not part of a film. It took place at the execution square in the southern Saudi town of Abha on Tuesday morning.
The swordsman, standing above the kneeling tied defendant, just froze upon hearing a man from the crowd shouting the pardon. He was the victim’s father.
“The halting of the execution caused a big stir among the crowd, who began chanting ‘God is Great’,” Sabq Arabic language daily said.
The pardon by the victim’s father, Sheikh Saad bin Ayed Al Kadam, came as a big surprise to both the crowd and the officials enforcing the court sentence.
“For nearly six years, Sheikh Kadam has rejected all mediation efforts exerted by relatives, dignitaries and many Saudi princes to pardon t…

Court gives Arizona warning about execution protocol

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A federal appeals court panel on Tuesday issued a strong warning to Arizona officials who have continuously violated and changed their own written protocol for executing state death-row inmates.
In its ruling on Tuesday, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco turned down a request to delay two upcoming executions -- that of Robert Henry Moormann on Wednesday and of Robert Charles Towery eight days later on March 8.
While the judges declined to delay the executions, they wrote that Arizona has forced the court "to engage in serious constitutional questions and complicated factual issues in the waning hours before executions."
"This approach cannot continue," the panel wrote. "We are mindful of the admonition requiring us to refrain from micro-managing each individual execution, but the admonition has a breaking point."
And unless Arizona officials make permanent changes, the judges wrote that the court might have to sta…

Amnesty: Iran quadrupled rate of public executions

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Iran put to death more than twice as many people in 2011 as it did the year before, Amnesty International said Monday in a new report. The rights group said that the rate of executions in public increased even more dramatically, in an apparent bid to suppress political dissent and promote a climate of fear among those who might defy harsh Iranian law.
"Casting a shadow over all those who fall foul of Iran's unjust justice system is the mounting toll of people sentenced to death and executed," said the 70-page report, released in the run-up to Iran's parliamentary elections on March 2.
"There were around four times as many public executions in 2011 than in 2010, and hundreds of people are believed to have been sentenced to death in the past year," it said. In Iran, prisoners are usually executed by hanging.
The report said the heightened pace of executions "may be a strategy to spread fear among the population and to deter protests. As the repression of di…

Another Death Row Debacle: The Case Against Thomas Arthur

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In Alabama, a death row prisoner could be exonerated by a DNA test. Why are the courts preventing this from happening -- especially when another man has already confessed to the crime?
Another month, another man on death row, another excruciating case that illustrates just some of the ways in which America's death penalty regime is unconstitutionally broken. This time, the venue is Alabama. This time, the murder that generated the sentence took place 30 years ago. And this time, there is an execution date of March 29, 2012, for Thomas Arthur, a man who has always maintained his innocence. He also has the unwelcome distinction of being one of the few prisoners in the DNA-testing era to be this close to capital punishment after someone else confessed under oath to the crime.
Click here to read the full article
Source: The Atlantic, Feb. 27, 2012

High Court Won't Hear Death Row Inmate's Evidence of Innocence

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Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to consider stopping the execution of Larry Ray Swearingen, a Texas death row inmate who says newly uncovered evidence proves his innocence.
Swearingen's lawyers had asked the high court to decide for the first time whether executing an innocent person constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution.
Lower federal courts declined to intervene in Swearingen's case in part because, as the law now stands, even uncontested scientific proof of innocence isn't a valid reason for a federal judge to stop an execution.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who opposed Swearingen's request for a Supreme Court hearing, said Swearingen's new scientific testimony doesn't outweigh a "mountain" of other evidence "that Swearingen is guilty of capital murder."
Federal courts also don't need to intervene because Texas's justice system provides methods for review of innocence claims,…

A killer’s words: Charles Lorraine writes his life story on Ohio Death Row

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Ohio death row inmate Charles ''Chucky'' Lorraine called the elderly Warren couple he befriended and then murdered in 1986 ''the two nicest people you would ever want to meet.''
''But that night this happened, I was at a friend's house and they was getting high, smoking weed and drinking, and they were shooting drugs that was new to me. I never been around or saw anybody ever do that before,'' Lorraine wrote last May 15 when he reduced his life story to 17 typewritten pages.
He titled it ''Where I Went Wrong and How I Got to Where I am Today.''
Lorraine, 45, who has spent the last 25 years in prison awaiting execution, forwarded the autobiography to members of the Ohio Parole Board when he was preparing to present his case for clemency in November.
The hearing was recorded on video and viewed by Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, who successfully argued against clemency on Dec. 13 before the execution was halted b…

Texas: Lethal injection costs increasing

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The switch to a substitute drug for executions has driven up the cost of capital punishment in Texas.
A year ago, the European supplier of sodium thiopental, bowing to pressure from death penalty opponents, stopped making it.
When no other vendor could be found, the drug was replaced by pentobarbital as 1 of the 3 used in the lethal injection process.
With sodium thiopental, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said the cost of lethal injection cocktail was $83.35.
It is now $1286.86, with the higher cost primarily due to pentobarbital, officials said. The other drugs are pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.
"Our responsibility is to carry out carry out the executions and when sodium thiopental was no longer available, we had to find another drug with similar properties and this is it," agency spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said Friday. "And it's more expensive."
The increase in drug cost first was reported by the Austin American-Statesman.
"In the g…

China: "Gutter oil" makers could face death penalty

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Producers and sellers of "gutter oil", or illegally recycled cooking oil, could face the death penalty, China's top court reaffirmed on Thursday.
The reaffirmation is the country's latest effort to crack down on a cause of public concern over food safety in the world's most populous country.
"Courts should fully consider suspects' subjective intention, the amount of money involved and the harm that has been done to the public and the market," read a circular issued on Thursday by the Supreme People's Court, China's top court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the top prosecuting body, and the Ministry of Public Security.
"For those who deserve death, death penalties should be handed down resolutely," it said.
Gutter oil can contain carcinogens and other toxins that are harmful when consumed by people. The government launched a massive crackdown last year after media reports said gutter oil has been rampant in China.
Police have bu…

Tunisia: First Death Sentence Since Revolution

The Primary Court of Tunis has recently issued the 1st capital punishment sentence since the ousting of Tunisia's former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
The judge presiding over the case sentenced the defendant to death by hanging for the murder of a high school student in Manouba on March 20, 2011. The victim, a 13 year-old high school student, was stabbed by his 30 year-old assailant during a mugging.
As Tunisia strives toward the application of transitional justice, concerns related to human rights have gained heightened precedence. Accordingly, human rights activists have prioritized advocacy efforts toward the abolition of the death penalty.
The Tunisian Human Rights League, established a coalition against death penalty in Tunisia in 2007. While the organization presented their initiative to the government of the former Tunisian president, the project was never implemented.
Hatem Chaabouni, an official at the International League for Human Rights, stated his NGOs opposition to…

Japan: Murder case shouldn't set precedent

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The Supreme Court's No. 1 Petit Bench in a 3-1 decision on Feb. 20 upheld a high court ruling that sentenced a man to death for raping and strangling housewife Yayoi Motomura, 23, and murdering her 11-month-old daughter Yuka in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in 1999. Juvenile Law prohibits sentencing to death persons who were younger than 18 at the time they committed their crime. The defendant, Takayuki Otsuki, was 18 years and a month old when he committed the double murder.
A danger exists that the top court's decision could set a strong precedent for trials dealing with heinous crimes by minors. This should not be allowed to happen despite the gravity of such crimes because the possibility of rehabilitation is very high for juveniles.
In 2 earlier trials, the Yamaguchi District Court and the Hiroshima High Court gave Otsuki a life sentence on the grounds that he was only 1 month older than 18 at the time of the crimes and that there was a strong possibility that he could be r…

Saudi Arabia beheads drug trafficker

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Saudi Arabia on Friday beheaded a man convicted of trafficking drugs in the kingdom, the interior ministry said. 
The ministry in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency said Wahid Atawi, a Saudi national, had confessed to bringing a quantity of hashish into the country in a bid to sell the banned substance. 
His beheading brings to 9 the number of people executed since the beginning of the year in the kingdom, according to an AFP tally based on official reports. Amnesty International said the kingdom executed 79 people in 2011. 
Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences, including rape, murder, apostasy, homosexuality, armed robbery and drug trafficking.
Source: Agence France-Presse, Feb. 25, 2012

Indonesia's justice system

Indonesia prides itself on being a democratic nation, but critics say that its justice system does not reflect the country’s progress.
Riddled with corruption and incompetent investigative procedures, trials and sentences are often deemed unfair.
Wealthy or politically influential suspects are often able to buy themselves out of a trial, while poorer suspects face abuse in prison.
This week on 101 East we look at Indonesia’s justice system, and ask if the punishment fits the crime.


Source: Aljazeera, February 24, 2012

Arizona death-row inmate requests rejected by clemency board

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After 5 hours of testimony Friday, the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency refused to commute the death sentence of Robert Moormann, who murdered and dismembered his mother in Florence in 1984.
Moormann, 63, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday.
Moormann was already serving a 9-years-to-life sentence for kidnapping an 8-year-old girl in 1972. In 1984, he was granted a three-day "compassionate furlough" to visit Roberta Maude Moormann, who traveled from Flagstaff to stay with her adopted son at the Blue Mist Motel across the street from the state prison complex in Florence.
Speaking from a metal cage in a prison auditorium Friday, Moormann, 63, told the clemency board that he did not remember the murder. All he recalled, he said, was touching his mother's breasts while she was tied to a bed and then carrying her body to the bathroom.
The testimony focused on Moormann's diminished mental capacity and the alleged sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his adoptive mother…

U.S. prison may use India-made execution drug

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When the Nebraska Supreme Court on Thursday issued a stay of execution in favour of death-row inmate Michael Ryan, it was not just Ryan who breathed a sigh of relief but also the proprietors of a pharmaceutical company in faraway Kashipur in Uttarakhand.
For, had the execution proceeded as per schedule on March 6, Ryan would have been injected with drugs made by the Swiss-Indian company, Naari, which has since last August consistently argued that 485 grams of sodium thiopental, an unconsciousness-inducing drug, was taken from it under false pretences and handed over to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS).
Why is a U.S. prison using execution drugs obtained though allegedly fraudulent means, from India? Lethal injection procedures in this country have, for the last few years, been rocked by the voluntary shutdown of a firm called Hospira, oddly the sole producer of sodium thiopental in the U.S. at the time.
Since that event in 2010, a slew of correctional facilities ha…

Death for 3 Lebanese who spied for Israel: judiciary

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3 Lebanese were sentenced to death by a military court on Friday for spying for Israel, a judicial source said.
The tribunal "condemned to death Mussa Ali Mussa, who was found guilty of having contacted the Israeli enemy and passing on information," the source said.
The court found that Mussa had passed on to the Jewish state between 2000 and 2010 "information on officials from Hezbollah," the powerful Lebanese Shiite group.
The court also condemned to death in absentia Ali Sweid and Ahmed Hussein Abdullah on charges of spying for Israel.
Lebanese authorities in 2009 launched a national crackdown on alleged Israeli espionage rings. Lebanon and Israel remain technically in a state of war and convicted spies can face the death penalty.
More than 100 people have been arrested on suspicion of collaborating with Israel's Mossad spy agency, including an army general, members of the security forces and telecoms employees.
Several people have so far been sentenced to death, …

Death for fraud: China debates Wu Ying's sentence

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It was a fraud trial involving a huge sum of money - and the verdict triggered a national outcry and a rare promise from China's top court.
In 2009, at the age of 28, multi-millionaire Wu Ying was sentenced to death for illegal fundraising.
Last week, however, the Supreme Court of China stated publicly that her sentence would be reviewed "cautiously".
The discussion that erupted online over Ms Wu concerns not only her fate, but the future of China's legal and financial systems.
She was initially charged with "illegally absorbing deposits from the public", but charges later escalated to financial fraud - and more specifically - fraudulent fundraising.
The indictment said she had raised 770m yuan ($122m; £79m) fraudulently from 11 people, with unreasonably high interest rates promised.
Wu Ying's case has been controversial since her arrest, but the High Court of Zhejiang's decision to uphold her death sentence has seen the debate renewed in the media and on…

White House condemns death sentence of Iranian pastor

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The White House on Thursday condemned the Iranian authorities’ reaffirmation of the death sentence for an Iranian pastor, APA reports quoting Xinhua.
"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms reports that Iranian authorities’ reaffirmed a death sentence for Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for the sole reason of his refusal to recant his Christian faith," said White House press secretary Jay Carney in a statement.
Describing the action as Iran’s breach of "international obligations, its own constitution, and stated religious values," Carney voiced the U.S. support for Nadarkhani and his family.
He criticized the Iranian authorities for disregarding religious freedom and violating rights of its citizen, calling on Tehran to immediately lift the sentence and release Nadarkhani.
Nadarkhani, 32, converted from Islam to Christianity when he was 19. In 2010, he was convicted of apostasy and remains in prison.
Source: APA, Feb. 24, 2012
Related articles: Christ…

Judge declines delaying executions for 2 Arizona inmates

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A federal judge on Thursday declined to delay the upcoming executions of 2 Arizona death-row inmates over arguments that a new execution protocol violates their constitutional rights.
U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled that the Arizona Department of Corrections' new execution protocol, released last month, does not pose a substantial risk of subjecting either inmate to cruel and unusual punishment, as their attorneys argued it would.
Attorneys plan to appeal his ruling Thursday to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Wake's ruling cleared one of several efforts to get the executions of Robert Henry Moormann and Robert Charles Towery stopped or delayed. Both men still have clemency hearings scheduled and other pending legal findings.
Moormann, 63, has been on death row for 27 years for the brutal killing and dismemberment of his 74-year-old adoptive mother Roberta while on a 3-day "compassionate" furlough from the same prison where he's set to be e…

Texas DA seeks death penalty review

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The Texas prosecutor leading an aggressive push to free wrongly imprisoned inmates, in a county where more than two dozen wrongful convictions have been overturned, is calling for a review of the capital punishment system in the nation's busiest death penalty state.
Craig Watkins' tenure as Dallas County's top prosecutor has earned him a national reputation. Now, as Watkins publicly acknowledges that his great-grandfather was executed in Texas almost 80 years ago, he called on state lawmakers to review death penalty procedures to ensure the punishment is fairly administered.
"I think it's a legitimate question to have, to ask: `Have we executed someone that didn't commit the crime?'" Watkins said in an interview with The Associated Press.
After becoming district attorney in 2007, Watkins started a conviction integrity unit that has examined convictions and, in some cases, pushed for them to be overturned. Dallas County has exonerated 22 people through DN…