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Showing posts from July, 2012

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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

UAE: Dubai court awards death penalty to employer for raping a job seeker

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The Dubai Criminal Court has awarded an employer death penalty for raping a job seeker.
The Dubai Prosecution accused Iraqi, HAJ, 44, of raping a job seeker by taking advantage of being alone with her in his office.
The 30-year-old victim, EMK, Egyptian visitor, testified that she read an advertisement in a local newspaper for the job of a secretary and she met the advertiser in his company on January 8.
“I called the given number on January 7 and the advertiser asked me to call him the next day as he was busy. I called him the next day at around 11.45am and asked for an appointment; since I was a visitor and did not know the location we agreed that I would call him once I am in a taxi so he will guide the driver. I arrived in his office at 1.30pm.
When I went in to the company office, he closed the door. He interviewed me for about 10 minutes then he started throwing flattering expressions. I stood up and decided to leave, but he walked behind me saying that the door is locked. He pu…

UAE: Asian gets death for smuggling drugs in his stomach

Abu Dhabi Criminal Court awarded death sentence to an Asian for smuggling drugs with the intention of trafficking in the UAE.
When he arrived at the airport, he became sick and this led the authorities to hospitalise him. Medical examination revealed he had concealed 103 capsules of narcotics in his stomach.
The suspect, however, denied knowledge of the substance in him.
Source: Emirates24/7, July 31, 2012

Malaysia: Australian nurse facing death sentence denies knowing of drugs, claims ill-treatment

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AN Australian nurse facing the death sentence over Malaysian drug trafficking charges wept through her 1st court appearance yesterday, with her lawyer saying she has spent a horror fortnight in jail, after being denied access to vital medication and a doctor.
Emma Louise L'Aiguille, 34, was led into a Kuala Lumpur court yesterday handcuffed to another female prisoner. Seated among a group of 10 other female drug accused, she was charged with a count of drug trafficking under Malaysia's notorious Dangerous Drugs Act.
Anyone convicted of the possession of more than 50 grams of illicit drugs in Malaysia faces a mandatory death penalty. Both she and her co-accused, a Nigerian man, Anthony Ndidi Esikalam, were also charged with drug use.
The court heard that Ms L'Aiguille has been in and out of Malaysia on tourist visas since 2009 and was arrested in Kuala Lumpur on July 17 in the driver's seat of a parked car. A kilogram of amphetamine was found under a rear seat.
Mr Esik…

Malaysia court upholds death penalty of 2 traffickers

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The Federal Court has confirmed the conviction and death sentence meted out to an Indian national for trafficking in 20.6kg of ketamine four years ago.
A 5-man bench, led by Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, said it was safe to sustain the conviction of the lower courts despite uncertainty whether a bag that contained the drug was locked.
"However, reviewing the evidence in totality, the appellant had knowledge of the drug."
He said the defence had failed to create a reasonable doubt in the prosecution's case.
In January 2010, the Shah Alam High Court had found driver S. Athiseshan guilty of trafficking in the drug at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.
The offence was committed at 3pm on July 26, 2008. The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction in August last year.
At the Federal Court yesterday, court-assigned lawyer S. Ravichandran argued that the prosecution had failed to adduce evidence that the bag was locked.
However, deputy public prosecutor Nurulhuda Noora…

5th Circuit: Inmates can sue TDCJ over excessive heat

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After the suit was thrown out at the district court level, the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said the Texas Civil Rights Project could sue the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on behalf of inmates over excessive heat. (See Grits coverage of oral arguments and a recent, related NY Times story.) TCRP this afternoon put out this press release:
U.S. FIFTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS RULES AGAINST PRISONS IN EXTREME TEMPERATURES CASE
Appellate court finds extreme temperature conditions can violate 8th Amendment
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals today reversed a Corpus Christi federal judge’s ruling dismissing a prisoners’ lawsuit claiming extreme temperatures violated his Eighth Amendment Rights. Lawyers for the Texas Civil Rights Project and DLA Piper represented Eugene Blackmon, a sixty-four-year-old prisoner suffering from hypertension and other medical conditions.
Temperatures inside the prison, which was not air conditioned, reached a heat index of 130 degrees. Expert test…

Mali unwed couple stoned to death by Islamists

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A couple who had sex outside marriage has been stoned to death at the weekend by Islamists in the town of Aguelhok in northern Mali, officials say.
The man and woman were buried up to their necks, then pelted with stones until they died.
The northern half of Mali has been overrun by rebels - Tuareg and Islamist - following a coup in Mali's capital.
Aguelhok in the region of Kidal was one of the first to be captured by Tuareg separatist rebels.
The Islamists in Aguelhok stoned the couple to death in front of about 200 people, officials said.
"I was there. The Islamists took the unmarried couple to the centre of Aguelhok. The couple was placed in two holes and the Islamists stoned them to death," a local government official told the AFP news agency.
"The woman fainted after the first few blows," he said, adding that the man had shouted out once and then fallen silent.
Click here to read the full article
Source: BBC News, July 30, 2012

Colorado shooting: Suspect is charged, no word on death penalty

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James Holmes had his 2nd court appearance Monday, as prosecutors formally filed the charges against him.
James Holmes is charged with 24 counts of murder, 2 each for the 12 people killed, and 116 counts of attempted murder, two each for the 58 injured. The 24-year-old is charged with a shooting at an Aurora, Colo. movie theater. Mr. Holmes, accused of opening fire in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater this month, killing 12 people and injuring 58, was charged with 142 counts, including 24 counts of 1st-degree murder, 116 counts of attempted murder, 1 count of possession of an explosive device, and 1 count of a sentence enhancer for a crime of violence.
He was charged twice for each of individuals killed. Colorado has several different classes of murder charges. One set of the charges refers to the fact that Holmes allegedly shot after deliberation. The 2nd set accuses him of killing “under circumstances evidencing an attitude of universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to the v…

Thai police get death penalty in drug war killing

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A Thai court Monday sentenced three police officers to death for killing a teenager during a much-criticized drug crackdown by the government 8 years ago.
The officers were found guilty Monday of killing a 17-year-old student in Kalasin province in the northeast in 2004 and moving his body to conceal the cause of death.
The killing took place under former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's government, which declared a crackdown on the drug trade to stem an influx of methamphetamine. Rights activists allege it resulted in more than 2,000 extrajudicial killings.
The Criminal Court also sentenced a former deputy police district commander to life in prison for the boy's murder and the former district commander was given a 7-year jail term for abuse of authority. One police officer was acquitted.
Few criminal cases involving alleged abuses during the Thaksin government's drug war have reached court, and fewer still have resulted in guilty verdicts.
Thailand carries out the de…

Australia woman to face death penalty in Malaysia over drug charges

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Malaysia police say Australian woman, Nigerian man being held on drug charges.
An Australian woman arrested last week by Malaysia police is to face the death penalty on drug trafficking charges, legal officials told Bikyamasr.com on Monday.
“The Australia government has been informed of the arrest of their citizen and has been told that she will face the death penalty if convicted,” said the legal source, who was not authorized to speak to the media.
In Malaysia, anyone found in possession of 50 grammes of a drug or more is considered to be a trafficker, an offence for which the death sentence is mandatory.
Another Australian was detained and charged with trafficking in March.
The man, Dominic Bird, has pleaded not guilty and his trial is scheduled to begin in November. While there is hope that he will be freed, history suggests foreigners get little reprieve from the Malaysian justice system.
The woman was arrested with a Nigerian man on suspicion of attempting to sell over 1 kilogra…

Four sentenced to death over $2.6bn Iran bank fraud

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Four people have been sentenced to death for their roles in Iran's biggest-ever bank fraud scandal.
Two other defendants received life sentences, while 33 more will spend up to 25 years in jail, the chief prosecutor was quoted as saying.
The scandal involved forged documents reportedly used by an investment company to secure loans worth $2.6bn.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year denied allegations that his government was involved.
The identities of the defendants have not been made public.
Impeachment vote
The case broke in September 2011 when an investment firm was accused of forging documents to obtain credit from at least seven Iranian banks over a four-year period.
The money was reportedly used to buy state-owned companies under the government's privatisation scheme.
As part of their probe, authorities froze the assets of an Iranian businessman thought to be the mastermind behind the scam.
The BBC's Sebastian Usher said the firm at the heart of the scandal had mov…

Iraq: Death Sentence Ratified for 12 Terror Convicts

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July 29, 2012: The Iraqi Presidency Council ratified the death penalty verdicts for 12 terror convicts, including two from other Arab countries, Iraqi official television reported.
"The Iraqi Presidency Council approved the death penalty verdicts for 12 terrorists, including two (non-Iraqi) Arab nationals," The state-run television of Iraqia said.
The convicts were found guilty for their involvement in terrorist acts, the channel said without giving further details.
According to the Iraqi law, execution verdicts must be signed by President Jalal Talabani and his two vice presidents.
Although Talabani disapproves death penalties on principle and refrains from signing such sentences, he authorized Shiite Vice President Khudair al-Khuzaie to sign the verdicts in his stead. 
Source: Xinhua, July 29, 2012

Saudi man saved from execution after King's intervention

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July 30, 2012: A Saudi man sentenced to death for murdering another Saudi during a fight was saved from the gallows after the victim’s father pardoned him in response to a plea by King Abdullah, a newspaper reported.
Abdullah Nassir Al Qahtani has been in prison for nearly seven years waiting to be beheaded before he was told by his jailers the penalty has been annulled.
“When I was sent to jail, I felt it was the end…I had waited to be beheaded any day and every day was like a year for me,” he told Okaz daily.
“The Monarch’s mediation gave me a new life and I wept when I was told I was pardoned…I am very grateful for the family of the victim and I have taken a serious pledge to be obedient to God the Almighty and the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)… I promise to be a good member of this society,” he told the paper as he prepared to leave prison in the northern town of Rafha.
Under Islamic law, which is strictly enforced in Saudi Arabia, a killer can be saved from execution and walk free…

Virginia Adds New Lethal Injection Drug

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Virginia has added a new drug to be used in executions to replace one that is in short supply across the U.S.
The Virginia Department of Corrections said Friday that rocuronium bromide can now be used in the lethal injection cocktail. The drug is an alternative to the scarce pancuronium bromide, which is used to paralyze muscles.
Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center says Virginia appears to be the first state to substitute a drug for pancuronium bromide.
He says Texas and Georgia have switched from the three-drug cocktail to just one, bigger dose of a sedative.
In May, an anti-death penalty group called Reprieve complained that Virginia had a stockpile of pancuronium bromide while hospitals are in short supply.
Source: AP, July 27, 2012

Sri Lankan at Risk of Being Beheaded for Praying to Buddha

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A Sri Lankan youth employed as a domestic aid has been arrested in Saudi Arabia for praying to a statue of Lord Buddha, which is considered an offence according to Islamic Sharia law. According to the Bodu Bala Sena, the youth bearing passport no. 2353715 identified as Premanath Pereralage Thungasiri has been arrested by Umulmahami Police, which is a grave situation. While the youth is a Buddhist, the charge levelled against him is that he paid obeisance to the Buddha at the house where he was employed.
The Bodu Bala Sena organisation further said those employed in Muslim-majority countries are prevented from practicing their religious faiths, and if found to do so are punished severely. Recently a Sri Lankan woman was arrested for gazing at a child at a shopping complex, where she was accused of witchcraft, on the grounds that she had a black cord around her wrist.
On prior occasions too many Sri Lankan female domestic workers were forced to embrace Islam, and wear the traditional a…

Ministry on Death Row

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“For this is my body, which will be given up for you.”
Saying these words, I lift up the host for the men inside the cage to see.
The “chapel” in San Quentin State Prison’s Death Row is a windowless old shower room encased in a heavy metal cage. Inside it there are 6 wooden benches bolted to the floor upon which the members of my congregation sit. I stand, wearing both priestly vestments and a black stab-proof vest, inside my own cage, which is about twice the size of an old phone booth. As required by the department I have padlocked myself inside. All this makes me, to my knowledge, the only Jesuit in my community who regularly celebrates Mass in a Kevlar vest.
There is a harsh florescent light overhead, and as I raise the consecrated host the light illuminates it. I look past the host to the men in the cage. They are quiet and focused. It’s at this point of the Mass that I often imagine, as I am standing there facing them, separated by the steel mesh, that the light of Christ…

Texas death-row inmate Selwyn Davis found dead in his cell

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A convicted Austin killer sentenced to be executed for the 2006 murder of his girlfriend's mother died Friday after being discovered unconscious in his cell on Texas' death row, officials said Wednesday.
Authorities said they are investigating the death — a rarity on Texas' death row because security is so tight and convicts are so isolated — amid allegations that he overdosed on pills he may have hoarded in his cell.
No official cause of death has been established, they said.
Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said Selwyn Davis, 30, was found unconscious during a routine security check by a correctional officer shortly after 9 p.m. Friday at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, east of Huntsville.
"He was unresponsive on the floor," Clark said. "Staff began lifesaving measures, called 911 and took the offender to the unit infirmary."
Davis was rushed by ambulance to Livingston Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced …

URGENT APPEAL for schizophrenic inmate Marcus Druery due to be executed in Texas on 1 August

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A 32-year-old African American man, Marcus Druery, is due to be executed in Texas on 1 August for a murder committed in 2002. He has repeatedly been diagnosed as having schizophrenia, with his symptoms including delusions and auditory hallucinations.
Marcus Druery was sentenced to death in December 2003 for the murder of Skyyler Browne, a fellow student at Texas State Technical College in Waco. Skyyler Browne was shot dead in Bryan, Texas, on 30 October 2002. Marcus Druery's lawyers are seeking a full court hearing on the question of his "competency" for execution under US law, that is, whether he has a rational understanding of the reason for and reality of his impending execution. They have presented compelling evidence that Marcus Druery suffers from serious mental illness, including paranoid schizophrenia, and that his symptoms include delusions and auditory hallucinations.
The Texas prison authorities have themselves diagnosed Marcus Druery as suffering from seriou…

Oregon death row inmate wants execution, argues he doesn’t have to accept governor’s reprieve

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An Oregon death row inmate and the state’s governor are at the center of an unusual legal battle — the governor has granted the twice-convicted murderer a reprieve, even though the inmate did not ask for it and does not want it.
Gov. John Kitzhaber blocked Gary Haugen’s scheduled execution last fall, saying no executions would be carried out on his watch.
Haugen has sought to reject the governor’s clemency. He’s voluntarily waived legal appeals that could delay his execution for years and has fought to speed his punishment in protest of a criminal justice system that he says is broken.
Their dispute was heard in court on Tuesday.
Oregon voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984, and the state has executed two people since then. Both occurred while Kitzhaber served as governor between 1995 and 2003. Both inmates had volunteered for execution, waiving their appeals.
After Kitzhaber was again elected in 2010, he announced he wouldn’t allow any more executions while he was in office, s…

2nd Woman Sentenced to Death By Stoning in Sudan

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Earlier this month a Sudanese woman was found guilty of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning by a court in the capital Khartoum, a regional women's rights group said Monday.
SIHA Network reported that on 10 July 2012, Judge Imad Shamoun sentenced Laila Ibrahim Issa Jamool, 23, to death by stoning for adultery at Al-Nasir Criminal Court under Article 146 of the Sudanese Penal Code 1991.
"Mrs. Jamool, is now being detained, shackled at the ankles with her 6-month old baby at her side. The child is understood to be in poor health and Mrs. Jamool is in need of psycho-social support for her distress", SIHA said.
This is the 2nd case of its kind this year. In April, Intisar Sharif Abdullah confessed to adultery after being beaten by her own brother and was sentenced to death by stoning. In both cases the women did not have access to a lawyer and were nursing children of breast feeding age, which is illegal under Sudanese and international law.
Article 36(3) of the 2005 …

Japan: To advise lay judges, Supreme Court institute cites death penalty precedent

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A research institute affiliated with the Supreme Court has issued a report on murder trials in which capital punishment has been handed down to serve as a precedent for lay judge trials, noting the ultimate sentence is usually reserved for cases involving multiple slayings.
The Legal Training and Research Institute said Monday it compiled the research paper to look into past death sentences to provide input for lay judges hearing criminal trials.
Judges, particularly nonprofessionals, should carefully consult past cases before they decide whether to hand down the death sentence because it is extremely important to ensure fairness, given the severity of the punishment compared with a prison term, it said.
For less serious crimes, the institute called for tolerance of varying conclusions by lay judges in terms of the severity of sentences.
The lay judge system was introduced in May 2009 to handle murders and other serious crimes to include the participation of ordinary citizens in the …

Iran: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s fate unclear while lawyer Javid Houtan Kiyan languishes in jail

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2 years after an international outcry erupted over her sentence of stoning to death, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani remains imprisoned in north-west Iran apparently still facing a stoning sentence. Her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kiyan, arrested on account of his advocacy for her, remains held as a prisoner of conscience, and is reported to have been sentenced to a lengthy prison term. He is believed to have been tortured during his detention.
Recent but unconfirmed reports suggested that the Iranian authorities no longer intend to implement the stoning sentence handed down to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in 2006. These reports highlight the need for clarity concerning her fate.
According to a 25 June 2012 article in The Times [of London] newspaper, Mohammad Mostafaie, one of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s previous lawyers, said that he had heard that the stoning sentence had been “lifted” and that “she could be released” before completing her sentence.
While this would be welcome news, Amnesty Int…