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Innocent on Death Row? New Evidence Casts Doubt on Convictions

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Rodney Reed’s death sentence was suspended. But researchers say other current cases raise similar doubt about the guilt of the accused.
The number of executions in the United States remains close to nearly a three-decade low. And yet the decline has not prevented what those who closely track the death penalty see as a disturbing trend: a significant number of cases in which prisoners are being put to death, or whose execution dates are near, despite questions about their guilt.
Rodney Reed, who came within days of execution in Texas before an appeals court suspended his death sentence on Friday, has been the most high-profile recent example, receiving support from Texas lawmakers of both parties and celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, who urged a new examination of the evidence.
Mr. Reed has long maintained that he did not commit the 1996 murder for which he was convicted. And in recent months, new witnesses came forward pointing toward another possible suspect: the dead…

2nd Woman Sentenced to Death By Stoning in Sudan

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 Interim Constitution of Sudan states:

"No death penalty shall be executed upon pregnant or lactating women, save after 2 years of lactation."

Mrs. Abdullah was eventually released after an appeal with the retrial court finding a "lack of evidence" against her.

Responding to Mrs. Jamool's sentence SIHA - the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa - issued a statement demanding her immediate and unconditional release and the end to the criminalisation of women for adultery in Sudan. The group asked the Ministry of Justice and other relevant institutions to investigate and overturn the judgment.

SIHA's statement outlined that the case was "problematic" under both Sudanese and international law, calling on the "human rights community, The African Union, The Arab League, and United Nations and to oppose this practice and leverage its influence to prevent this act of brutality."

Under the United Nations Convention on Torture (1984) stoning is classed as cruel, inhuman and degrading. International human rights legislation that Sudan has signed prohibits stoning as a method of execution, according to SIHA's statement.

Critically, the human rights group said, "this has been taking place in absence of legal representation for Mrs. Jamool and after only three court sessions, inclusive of a referral to a higher court than that of first instance, Mrs. Jamool was sentenced to death by stoning."

Sudan is one of the few countries which retains the death penalty for adultery. However, its application has not been recorded in recent years. Many of Sudan's Public Order Laws (based on the government's interpretation of Islamic Shari'a Law) are inconsistently applied.

President Omar al-Bashir said recently that Sudan's new constitution would be "100% Islamic" following the secession of the largely Christian South of the country last year.

The legal procedures in Mrs. Jamool's case, SIHA said, are in clear violation of due process and Sudan's interim constitution:

Article 34 (6) states that:
"any accused person has the right to defend himself/herself in person or through a lawyer of his/her own choice and to have legal aid assigned to him/her by the State where he/she is unable to defend himself/herself in serious offences,"

SIHA also observe that Article 135 of Sudan's Criminal procedure code has been violated. This stipulates that defendants are entitled to legal representation in criminal cases carrying a sentence of 10 years or more, imprisonment, amputation or death.

Mrs. Jamool married her husband in 2008 but after 18 months she returned to her family and they have been estranged ever since. For over a year they have been going through divorce procedures.

However, when she gave birth to a child 6 months ago her husband launched adultery charges - known as Zina in Islamic Shari'a Law - against her and filed a case for her to be returned to his home.

Mrs. Jamool's husband has also asked her family to return some or all of the the dowry he paid them as part of traditional Sudanese wedding procedures 4 years ago.

SIHA's Director, Hala Alkarib, said her organisation "condemns all forms of corporal punishment", especially those involving the criminalisation of personal behaviour.

"The victimization of women as the result of complex socio-economic and cultural relationships must be stopped and Sudan must urgently adopt measure and laws that protect and respect the dignity and the human rights of Sudanese women".

"The criminalization of Sudanese women within the current legal framework subjects women to systematic and severe forms of violence and ultimately undermines their humanity and that of the society at large."

Source: All Africa News, July 25, 2012

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