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Showing posts from April, 2012

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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…

New DNA testing may free convicted Colorado killer

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(Reuters) - A man sentenced to life in prison for raping a Colorado woman and strangling her to death with a dog leash could be freed on Monday based on advanced DNA testing that is believed to exonerate him of the crime.
Robert "Rider" Dewey, 51, who has been imprisoned since his 1996 conviction, is scheduled to appear before a Colorado judge on Monday in Grand Junction for a post-conviction hearing in his case, according to the county's court docket.
The DNA testing, which was requested by Dewey's current lawyer, exonerates him and he is expected to be released from prison, a legal source who said he had seen a memo related to the case told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Local media also reported his release was likely.
Dewey was convicted and sentenced to life without parole for the rape and murder of Jacie Taylor, 19, in the western Colorado town of Palisade. Taylor's partially clothed body was found in her bathtub in June 1994. She had been beaten, sexu…

Canadian on death row expected to plead for his life in Montana

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CALGARY—The lone Canadian on death row in the United States is expected to make a plea for his life at his clemency hearing in Montana this week.
Ronald Smith, 54, has been on death row since 1982 after he and an accomplice, both high on drugs, marched Thomas Running Rabbit and Harvey Mad Man Jr. into the woods near East Glacier, Mont., and shot both of them in the head.
It was a cold-blooded crime. They wanted to steal the men’s car, but Smith also said he wanted to know what it was like to kill someone.
His is the final name on the list of 16 witnesses put forward by his attorneys for the two-day clemency hearing before the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole beginning Wednesday in Deer Lodge, Mont.
The hearing is being held near the federal penitentiary where Smith, originally from Red Deer, Alta., has spent the last three decades locked up.
“I’ve always wanted an opportunity to step outside of all of this and to be able to apologize to the family and explain to them just everythi…

Singapore: Commute Death Sentence in Yong Vui Kong Drug Case

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(New York) - President Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam of Singapore should commute the death sentence in the heroin possession case of Yong Vui Kong, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to President Tan Keng Yam. Should he deny what could be a final request for clemency, Yong Vui Kong, a 20-year-old Malaysian national, could be executed within weeks
In November 2008, a Singapore court found Yong guilty under the Misuse of Drugs Act for possession of 42.27 grams of heroin. Under Singaporean law, possession of 15 grams or more of heroin carries a mandatory death sentence.
"Executing another young man for a narcotics offense will only reinforce the image of Singapore's authorities as oblivious to basic rights and due process," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Singapore's mandatory death sentences clearly violate international human rights standards."
While Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances …

URGENT APPEAL for dual Iranian-Canadian Hamid Ghassemi-Shall at imminent risk of execution in Iran

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A man with dual Iranian-Canadian nationality, Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, appears to be at imminent risk of execution. His family was told on 15 April that his death sentence had been passed to the body within the Judiciary that carries out executions.
Hamid Ghassemi-Shall was arrested on 24 May 2008 while visiting his elderly mother in Iran. His older brother, Alborz Ghassemi-Shall, have been arrested about two weeks earlier. Both brothers were held in solitary confinement without legal representation, in Tehran's Evin prison for 18 months; in November 2009 the brothers were transferred to a section of the prison holding other prisoners.
On 29 December 2008 both men were sentenced to death following an unfair trial by a Revolutionary Court. They were convicted of moharebeh (enmity against God) for espionage and cooperation with the proscribed People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). Amnesty International understands that the evidence used against the brothers during trial inc…

Japan: Death sentences prove difficult for lay judges

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However one feels about the death penalty, it's difficult to argue that its application in Japan isn't arbitrary. Last week, former Justice Minister Hideo Hiraoka publicly denounced his successor Toshio Ogawa's decision to have three death row inmates hanged on March 29, saying that the government needs to discuss capital punishment before continuing with executions. The fact that Hiraoka on principle did not sign any death warrants during his tenure while Ogawa, in accordance with a very different set of values, approved three soon after assuming office shows that choices regarding life and death are governed more by personal whim than by guidelines. Don't forget, these two guys belong to the same political party.
At the symposium where Hiraoka made his remarks, the secretary general of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations called for a change in judicial rules in relation to the lay judge system. At present, a death sentence can be delivered if the majority of th…

Trinidad and Tobago: Hangings could resume

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HERALDING what she described as “a new dawn in this country’s legal history”, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday announced her Government’s intention to table a bill to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) this country’s final criminal court, replacing the Privy Council’s criminal jurisdiction and in the process possibly clearing the way for the resumption of the death penalty.
The move to the CCJ as the final criminal court, which would require a special majority in the Parliament, yesterday looked set for a clear path toward implementation after Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and senior members of the Independent benches of the Senate indicated their support in principle. The Government needs Opposition and Independent bench support in order to pass special majority legislation.
In a special statement in the House of Representatives yesterday afternoon, the Prime Minister expressed “immeasurable pride” at the move towards the CCJ but was careful to point out th…

Gradual death of a failed experiment

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The death penalty experiment that began in the USA in 1976 when the US Supreme Court gave the green light to executions to resume under revised capital laws took another step towards its eventual demise this week when Connecticut became the 17th abolitionist state. The governor signed the bill abolishing the death penalty into law on 25 April.
Connecticut is the 4th US state in 5 years to legislate to abolish capital punishment. In addition, last November the Oregon governor imposed a moratorium on executions and called on the legislature there to reconsider the death penalty, and earlier this week the Secretary of State for California confirmed that repeal of California’s death penalty will be put to the popular vote at the election in November 2012.
California accounts for 1 in 5 of the USA’s death row inmates; if repeal is approved, this would be the biggest chunk of the US death penalty edifice to fall in the past 40 years.
In North Carolina, which accounted for 5 % of the USA’s …

Big picture: Death Row Prisoners’ Last Meals

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From archetypal junk food including pizzas and ice-cream to the gourmet delights of lobster, clams and shrimps, there's an eerie context to these last supper.
These meals resemble unhealthy school dinners – pizza, nuggets, ice-cream, Pepsi – or photographs in a glossy magazine. It’s only when you learn they are the last suppers of prisoners on death row that they take on a morbid significance.

Helen Thompson’s photographs, and other images from the Sony World Photography Awards, are at the Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, London WC2 until 20 May.
Click here to read the full article and access the online photo gallery

Photographs: Helen Thompson. Words: Hannah Booth

Source: The Guardian, Friday 27 April 2012

>> Recommended visit: Click here to visit Kate MacDonald's online exihibition "Last Meals".

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Death Penalty News: Texas Prisons End Special Last Meals In ... Sep 23, 2011 Texas inmates who are set to be executed will no longer get their c…

Gambian President: harsh penalties for homosexuals, including the death penalty

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LUSAKA, April 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In the face of U.S. threats to cut off foreign aid, President Yahya Jammeh defended Gambian laws banning homosexual behavior in comments to the country’s National Assembly last Friday.
“If you want us to be ungodly for you to give us aid, take your aid away, we will survive,” said Jammeh, in comments that were reported by the Daily Observer. “We will rather eat grass than accept this ungodly evil attitude that is anti-God, anti-human and anti-creation.”
The country’s stance against homosexual behavior has come under increased scrutiny after President Obama announced in December that the U.S. would look at how accepting a country was of homosexuality when considering foreign aid allocation.
On the same day that the Administration’s new policy was announced, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that gay rights and human rights were “one and the same” in a speech before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
British Prime Mi…

California governor orders consideration of single-drug execution method

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Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered prison officials to consider a single-drug method of executing condemned inmates as the state appeals a court order that has blocked California from carrying out the death penalty.
Mention of the directive came in a notice of appeal filed Thursday by Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris seeking to counter a February ruling that halted a revised three-drug lethal injection method. The filing came just three days after certification of a November ballot measure that would offer voters the chance to repeal California's death penalty.
The legal filing said the state would reevaluate its position in favor of the three-drug method if "the drugs needed to implement the protocol have, in fact, become unavailable." The U.S. maker of one of the drugs has stopped manufacturing it.
"In the meantime, under the governor's direction, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will also begin the process of considering alternative regulator…

Trinidad wants to withdraw from Britain's Privy Council

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Trinidad and Tobago plans to stop sending appeals in criminal cases to Britain's Privy Council, a move that could make it easier for death sentences to be carried out in the Caribbean country.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the government will submit legislation to parliament to abolish appeals to the London-based Privy Council, the final court of appeal for former and current British territories in the Caribbean.
The jurisdiction of the Privy Council in criminal appeals is "a matter of grave concern," Persad-Bissessar told parliament late on Wednesday, adding it "affects the dispensation of criminal justice at a time of high crime in our country."
"The situation has been complicated by the issue of the death penalty on which the Privy Council, reflecting contemporary English mores and jurisprudence, has been rigorous in upholding Caribbean appeals in death sentence cases," she said.
A former British colony, Trinidad and Tobago has faced …

Texas executes Beunka Adams

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Texas man condemned for his role in a robbery in which three people were shot, one fatally, has been put to death.
Beunka Adams became the fifth person executed in Texas this year. His lethal injection was carried out Thursday evening in Huntsville.
The execution came less than three hours after the U.S. Supreme Court refused a last-day appeal to postpone the punishment.
The 29-year-old Adams won a reprieve from a federal district judge earlier this week. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the death warrant Wednesday.
Adams and another man were sent to death row for the 2002 slaying of 37-year-old Kenneth Vandever during the holdup of an East Texas convenience store. Two female clerks were shot but survived. One of the women was raped.

Adams becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 482nd overall since Texas resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Adams also becomes the 243rd condemned inmate …

13 executed in Iran, including 5 Afghan nationals

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Iran Human Rights, April 26: Five prisoners were executed in the prison of Shahrud (northern Iran) Tuesday April 25. reported the offcial Iranian sources. Eight other prisoners were hanged in Karaj (west of Tehran) according to unofficial reports.
According to the official website of the Iranian judiciary in Semnan Province five prisoners, among them four Afghan citizens, were hanged in the prison of Shahrud. The prisoners were identified as "M. M.", "S. P.", "A. S.", "M. B." (all Afghan citizens) and "H. P.", and were convicted of keeping and carrying large quantities of narcotic substances, according to the report.
Eight prisoners, among them one Afghan citizen, were hanged in Karaj:
According to unofficial reports published by the "Human Rights and Democracy Activists in Iran" (HRDAI) eight prisoners were hanged in the Rajaei Shahr prison of Karaj (west of Tehran) on Tuesday April 25. The report identified these prisoners…

Saudi executed for murder

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Saudi Arabia beheaded a man for murder on Thursday in the kingdom's southeastern region of Asir, the interior ministry said.
Zaher bin Ali al-Shihri was found guilty of stabbing fellow Saudi Mohammed bin Hadi al-Qahtani after a disagreement, according to a statement published on the official SPA news agency.
Shihri's beheading brings the total number of executions in the ultra-conservative kingdom to 21 so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on official reports.
Under the AFP count, at least 76 people were beheaded in 2011, while rights group Amnesty International put the number of executions last year at 79.
The death penalty in Saudi Arabia applies to a wide range of offenses including rape, apostasy, homosexuality armed robbery and drug trafficking, as well as murder, as stipulated by Islamic Sharia law.
Source: Agence France-Presse, April 26, 2012

Man hanged for alleged gay sex in Iran

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'Gangster' accused of gay sex executed in public in Fars Province, Iran
A young man known by the initials CH M was hanged publicly in Marwdasht, Fars Province, Iran, for allegedly engaging in 'sodomy' with another man.
Speaking with the Iranian Fars News Agency, Gholamhossein Chamansara, the Attorney General of Marwdasht, reported that the death penalty was given to the man - whose exact age is not known - due to his 'despicable act' that contradicted Sharia Muslim laws.
Chamansara also added that the man was a gangster and performed the type of 'unlawful activities' for which the death penalty is usually applied.
He was executed on 19 April.
The Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRAN) stated that the reference to 'despicable acts' indicates that the death penalty was carried due to same-sex acts. However the judiciary regulatory office in Fars Province was unwilling to give more precise information about the case and the type of sexua…

Judge: Kentucky must consider single drug executions

A Kentucky judge says the state must either switch to a single drug to perform executions within 90 days or prepare to go to trial in a lawsuit challenging the state's 3-drug method of carrying out capital punishment.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled Wednesday that the state's 3-drug method may no longer be necessary now that other states have successfully used a single drug to execute condemned inmates.
The ruling comes about 20 months after Shepherd halted all executions in Kentucky. He imposed the ban after inmates challenged the three-drug method.
At least 5 states have switched to a 1-drug execution method. 3 states - Ohio, Washington and Arizona - have conducted single-drug lethal injections. Arizona put an inmate to death Wednesday using only pentobarbital.
Source: Associated Press, April 25, 2012

South Carolina: Students, Professors Find Evidence to Remove Prisoner From Death Row

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After spending 31 years — 29 of them on death row — incarcerated for murder, Edward Elmore was freed on March 3, in large part due to investigations undertaken by Cornell law students and professors on the Cornell Death Penalty Project Council.
The council –– which is directed by Prof. John H. Blume, law –– is comprised of a few Cornell law students who are selected to work on cases alongside Blume and other attorneys.
Elmore, now 54 years old, was convicted in 1982 for the murder of Dorothy Edwards. At the time, Edwards had hired Elmore to perform small tasks such as window-washing, gutter-fixing and cleaning.
Attorney Diana Holt, Blume’s co-council on several hearings of the case, said Jimmy Holloway –– Edwards’ neighbor and a possible suspect in the case –– discovered Edwards dead in a closet in her South Carolina home. She had been stabbed more than 50 times and sexually assaulted before she bled to death.
When Elmore was on death row, Cornell students and professors on the counc…