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Showing posts from November, 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…

Saudi footballer, 20, faces beheading unless he pays diya (blood money) in coming weeks

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A Saudi football player could be executed for accidentally killing a Bangladeshi man while driving his car unless he pays diya (blood money).
A court in the northwestern Saudi town of Jouf had given Saud Al Faleh, 20, a few weeks to pay SR300,000 (Dh297,000) diya for the victim’s family but he could not raise all the funds, prompting the court to put him back in jail.
Al Faleh, who plays for Alorouba Youth club, said he had managed to raise around SR120,000 from colleagues, friends and relatives.
In remarks published in Saudi newspapers, the player appealed for Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, president of the Saudi Youth Authority, to help him.
“Al Faleh appealed for Prince Nawaf to help him pay the diya so he can be saved from execution and released from jail,” Aloola newspaper said.
Under Islamic law, which is strictly enforced in conservative Saudi Arabia, a killer can be saved from the gallows and released from jail if pardoned by the victim’s relatives in return for diya, which is set …

Papua New Guinea to carry out executions by lethal injection?

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November 29, 2012: Papua New Guinea is contemplating introducing execution by lethal injection for 10 people on death row - with many people volunteering to carry out the sentences.
The Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Kerenga Kua, has answered questions in parliament about the situation of condemned prisoners.
Source: theaustralian.com.au, November 29, 2012

Papua New Guinea residents offer to carry out executions

Residents of Papua New Guinea have "expressed interest" in carrying out executions if the government cannot agree on a method of execution for its 10 people on death row.
The Commonwealth nation introduced capital punishment in 1991 but has been unable to decide between hanging, gas or lethal injections and has not yet executed any prisoners. The death penalty can be given for the crimes of treason, piracy and murder.
The justice minister, Kerenga Kua, is seeking to broaden the scope of the death penalty to try to reduce the country's soaring crime rates.…

Catholic activism on the death penalty; a brief dispatch from Denmark

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Rumors of the death of the church's passion for social justice have been greatly exaggerated, at least to judge by a high-profile international conference in Rome on Tuesday promoting global abolition of the death penalty, which was organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio.
The conference was titled, "A World without the Death Penalty: No Justice without Life."
[T]he conference confirmed that the death penalty is hardly on the brink of becoming obsolete. Among the salient data: 58 nations still have the death penalty on the books, though the number in which executions are actually carried out is smaller. In 2011, executions were performed in 20 nations.In 2011, there were an estimated 5,000 people executed around the world, of whom roughly 4,000 were put to death in China.Four nations in 2011 and early 2012 returned to using the death penalty, bucking the abolitionist trend: Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Botswana and Japan.In 2011, 1,923 death sentences wer…

Iraqi court issues death penalty to 4 guards of fugitive vice president

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BAGHDAD, Nov. 29 — An Iraqi court on Thursday issued death penalty verdicts against four bodyguards of the fugitive Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashimi over criminal charges, a judicial source said.
“The Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) on Thursday issued verdicts of penalties by hanging against four bodyguards of Hashimi for their involvement in the killing of an Iraqi civil defense major and his wife along with wounding their son in al- Jamia district (in western Baghdad) in 2011,” The spokesman of the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) Abdul-Sattar al-Biraqdar told reporters.
Earlier, Iraqi judicial authorities said that dozens of Hashimi ‘s guards are accused of carrying out 150 armed attacks, including car bombs, roadside bombs and attacks against Shiite pilgrims and security officers.
Iraqi courts earlier issued four death sentences in absentia against Hashimi, one of Iraq’s top Sunni Arab officials, charges of orchestrating death squads.
Hashimi, a prominent critic of…

Lawmaker: Uganda anti-gay bill does not contain death penalty provision

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KAMPALA, Uganda — The Ugandan lawmaker who originally authored an anti-gay bill proposing death for some homosexual acts said Friday that a new version of the proposed legislation doesn’t contain the death penalty.
Parliamentarian David Bahati said the bill, which is expected to be voted on next month, had “moved away from the death penalty after considering all the issues that have been raised.”
“There is no death penalty,” he told The Associated Press.
Bahati said the bill now focuses on protecting children from gay pornography, banning gay marriage, counseling gays, as well as punishing those who promote gay culture. Jail terms are prescribed for various offenses, he said, offering no details. The most recent version of the bill hasn’t been publicly released.
The bill’s original wording proposed the death penalty for cases where HIV-infected homosexuals had sex, where gay people had sex with minors or the disabled, and where gays were discovered having sex for the second time. Bah…

Innocent man speaks out against death penalty

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A bible, blanket, towel and a bar of soap were the 4 things that replaced the comfort of Randy Steidl's home when he was wrongfully convicted of the tragic murder of Dyke and Karen Rhodes on June 14, 1987. Steidl sat on death row for 12 out of the 17 years (6305 days) he was in the Danville Correctional Center in Pontiac, Ill. trying to prove that he was an innocent man.
The only other things he had access to were what he referred to as "garbage food" and an hour outside a day. Meanwhile he was locked inside a jail holding cell waiting for his execution day to be set, only to come back with another rebuttal to attest to his innocence. Most importantly, Steidl had access to the law library and he spent his 1st 3 months in prison reviewing how to defend his case.
On Nov. 27, Steidl visited Northern Kentucky University to speak out against the death penalty and share his story. He has traveled across the country to change hearts and minds and correct common misconceptions …

Texas: Bill Would Restrict Informant Testimony in Death Cases

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Anthony Graves was wrongly convicted and sent to death row in 1994 based largely on the testimony of an alleged accomplice in the fiery murders of six people. The accomplice, while on the execution gurney, admitted he was the lone killer. Ten years later, in 2010, Graves was exonerated.
Like Graves, Muneer Deeb, Michael Toney and Robert Springsteen were sentenced to death after trials that involved the testimony of their cellmates or alleged accomplices. Their convictions were all overturned.
State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, has filed a bill, HB 189, that aims to prevent wrongful death sentences in cases that involve unreliable testimony from alleged accomplices or jailhouse snitches who receive a reward for implicating someone else.
“What we have found is that there have been people who, for their own self-interest, have basically fabricated testimony about other folks, and as a consequence that person has been found guilty,” Dutton said.  

Criminal justice reform advocates sai…

Lawmaker submits Oregon Death Penalty Repeal

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Oregon state Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) plans to introduce a bill proposing a constitutional amendment to repeal the death penalty and substitute life in prison without possibility of parole. If the legislators pass the bill, Oregonians would then vote on the amendment in the 2014 general election.
1 year ago, Governor John Kitzhaber stayed the execution of Gary Haugen, convicted of 2 murders and sentenced to die by lethal injection. Kitzhaber declared, "I will not allow further executions while I am Governor" and called upon all Oregonians "to consider a different approach." He asked the legislature to bring potential reforms before the 2013 legislative session.
Gov. Kitzhaber wrote, "The death penalty as practiced in Oregon is neither fair nor just." He believes that it is "morally wrong."
It is also very expensive, far more expensive than life in prison without parole. Senior Judge Timothy Alexander, who himself has been involved in d…

Egypt: 6 expat Copts receive death penalty sentence for anti-Islam film

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Court orders death penalty for 6 Coptic Egyptians, who reside abroad, over controversial anti-Islam film.
The state security court issued a verdict on Wednesday sentencing 6 expatriate Coptic Egyptians to the death penalty for offending the Islamic faith, on charges related to producing the anti-Islamic film 'The Innocence of Muslims'.
Bishop Marcus of the Coptic Orthodox Church described the sentence as "harsh", while asserting that the church rejects any offence towards any religion.
The US-made film provoked angry protests throughout much of the Islamic world in September, including Egypt and Libya.
Maurice Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian living in the US, and controversial Pastor Terry Jones, who is known for his burning of the Quran, are believed to have been involved in promoting the film but were not involved in its production, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal.
Egyptian-born Coptic Christian Mark Basseley Youssef, also known by his alias …

Japan: Strong support for death penalty due to biased polls, say experts

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Government opinion polls on the death penalty consistently show overwhelming public support for the process, which is by hanging.
Now, the neutrality of questions that have produced an 85.6 % support rate is being called into question.
The government has carried out 9 opinion polls on the death penalty since 1956.
Since 1994, respondents have been asked to choose from 3 options: death penalty should be abolished under all circumstances; death penalty cannot be helped depending on circumstances; and don't know/ difficult to say in general terms.
The last survey, held in 2009, found that 85.6 % of the respondents picked the option "cannot be helped."
Successive justice ministers and other figures in authority have cited the high support rate to argue that the bulk of the general public supports the death penalty.
On Nov. 27, a Japan Federation of Bar Associations committee to discuss abolition of the death penalty invited experts in opinion polls to give their views on th…

Is Larry Swearingen Innocent?

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Nine forensic experts say Swearingen is on death row for a murder he couldn’t have committed, yet Texas courts won’t grant a new trial.
The state’s evidence against 41-year-old Swearingen was compelling. Eyewitnesses claimed to have seen him with Melissa Trotter on the day she went missing, December 8th, 1998, from the Lone Star College-Montgomery campus in Conroe. The pair had been dating and Swearingen had been on the wrong side of the law before: His ex-girlfriend accused him of kidnapping her; he had admitted to stealing a truck; and fibers from Trotter’s clothing were found on the seat of his vehicle. After his arrest for Trotter’s murder, he penned a fake letter to investigators purporting to be from her real killer in the bizarre hope it would absolve him. (It didn’t; it just handed the state more evidence against him). And, most damning of all, investigators claimed they found half of Trotter’s panties on her body, which had been dumped in the Sam Houston National Forest, and …

Saudi beheads two for murder

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Riyadh: Saudi authorities on Tuesday beheaded two nationals for murder, including one who stabbed his wife to death and burned her corpse, the interior ministry said.
Ali Mohammad Mahrazi was convicted of stabbing his wife Hunayna Khabrani repeatedly before he “poured kerosene on her body and set it on fire until it was charred,” the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.
He then cleared the traces of his crime and complained to police that his wife has disappeared, but a probe revealed that he was the culprit, it said.
He was beheaded by the sword in the southwestern city of Jizan.
In another case, Ahmad Mahmoud Al Yazidi was beheaded in the city of Makkah over shooting dead another man, Eyad Awad Al Yazdi.
The beheadings bring to 72 the number of people executed so far this year in the ultra-conservative kingdom, where 79 people were put to death in 2011, according to Amnesty International.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all p…

Three beheaded by the sword in Saudi Arabia, 70 executions so far this year

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November 26, 2012: Saudi Arabia beheaded three men convicted of separate murders across the kingdom, the interior ministry announced.
Mubarak al-Harithi and Obaidallah al-Harithi, whose nationality was not given, were executed in Mecca province for having stabbed and shot dead a victim named as Ayedh al-Harithi, it said in a statement carried by official news agency SPA.
The ministry said Majed al-Dosari was beheaded in Riyadh for having shot dead a fellow Saudi, Mehmas al-Dosari.
The executions bring to 70 the number of people put to death in Saudi Arabia so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on official reports.
Source: Agence France-Presse, November 26, 2012

Governor Martin O’Malley attempts to repeal the death penalty in Maryland

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Last prisoner executed under Republican Robert Ehrlich as technicalities and inaction thus far keeps law at arms length.
Martin O’Malley, the newly re-elected Governor of Maryland, will try once more to have the death penalty repealed in his state this coming January.
O’Malley, a Democrat, tipped by many to be a possible candidate for the 2016 Presidency, could be set to add to his already progressive legacy.
Although the death penalty remains on the state’s books, advocates, both for and against the law, agree that it is unlikely that those five prisoners currently on death row will be executed during O’Malley’s tenure.
Maryland is one of 34 states with death penalty laws. In 2005 Maryland executed its last prisoner, under Governor Robert Ehrlich (R).
Six years ago Maryland’s highest court put a stop to executions due to a technicality. So far O’Malley’s administration has simply not implemented the regulations which would see the capital punishment resume.
Click here to read the full…

India: 16 prisoners at risk of execution

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Following the recent execution of Ajmal Kasab, there is fear that Indian authorities may similarly execute other prisoners with petitions for mercy currently pending.
On 21 November, the Indian government executed Pakistani national Ajmal Kasab, convicted for his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. This was the first execution in India in eight years.
The manner of his execution was a deviation from usual practice, and raises serious concerns. Firstly, mercy petitions in India are generally considered in the order in which they were filed. However, the Indian state considered Ajmal Kasab's case out of turn. Secondly, the execution was only announced to the public after it had been carried out. Indian authorities have publicly sought to justify this lack of prior announcement in Kasab's case, stating that this was done to avoid intervention from human rights activists.
Official figures indicate that 11 mercy petitions involving 15 men and one woman on death row are now …

After Kasab's execution, Afzal and Bhullar anxious about their future

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Following Ajmal Amir Kasab's execution, the lone survivor of 26/11 attack, 2 terrorists facing death row and currently lodged in Tihar jail are believed to be very apprehensive of their future. According to Sunil Gupta, spokesperson of Tihar Jail, there was sense of uneasiness on Afzal's face after hearing the news about the execution of Kasab.
Afzal Guru, who attacked Parliament, in 2001 was given death penalty by the Supreme Court in 2005. Later he filed a mercy petition, which has now been returned to home ministry for consideration.
Mercy petition of Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), Bhullar, who was sentenced to death by a trial court on August 25, 2001 for plotting terror attacks on Punjab SSP Sumedh Singh Saini in 1991 and the then Youth Congress head in 1993, has been rejected by the President.
It is believed that Bhullar is under immense pressure and his mental condition is not stable. He is currently getting medical treatment at a Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences…

Sri Lanka pushes to hang child abusers, women's rapists

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Sri Lanka is planning to introduce death penalty to child abusers and rapists, an official said on Friday.
The minister in charge of the Child Development and Women's affairs has proposed to the parliament to impose death sentence or life imprisonment to offenders who are convicted of child abuse and raping women, China's Xinhua news agency quoted a ministry official as saying.
Minister Tissa Karalliyadde has told the parliament that severe punishment should be imposed on the 2 groups of criminals as the rapes of children and women are dangerously high.
Early this year, a draft proposal recommending maximum punishment for rapists of women and children was sent to the Ministry of Justice.
The state records indicated that in 2011, 1,450 female rape cases were reported while child rape accounted for 1,169.
However, the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), an institution specially established to curb child abuses indicated an alarming increase with at least 20,000 cases of…

Pakistan: Two dozen death row convicts in jail where Kasab was hanged

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Pune : The Yerawada Central Jail, where Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab, convicted for 26/11 Mumbai attacks, was hanged last week, has over two dozen death row convicts awaiting execution, an official said Monday - the fourth anniversary of the carnage.
"Their execution papers are still in process," the jail official, who declined to be identified, told IANS, adding that the Mumbai terror attack anniversary passed off peacefully at the high security prison here.
According to official records, Maharashtra has 38 prisons, of which eight are central prisons, 25 district prisons (Class 1, 2 and 3), three open prisons, and one open prison colony and a Borstal School for juveniles.
However, of the eight central prisons, only two prisons - Yerawada Central Jail and Nagpur Central Jail - currently have execution facilities.
Breaking a popular myth about shortage of hangmen for execution of death row prisoners, an official from Yerawada jail told IANS that a hangman was not a s…

Norway urges Indonesia to abolish death penalty

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Norway on Monday urged Indonesia to abolish the death penalty and welcomed indications that Jakarta is distancing itself from capital punishment.
"We encourage Indonesia to formally establish a moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty," said Gry Larsen, state secretary of Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaking at the annual Indonesia-Norway human rights dialogue in Jakarta.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said last month that the country was moving away from the death penalty in line with the global trend.
In October, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono commuted the death sentence for a man convicted of drug trafficking to life imprisonment. The move drew public criticism amid concerns of increasing drug use.
More than 100 people, about half of them foreigners and most of them convicted of drug trafficking, are on death row in Indonesia.
The country has not carried out an execution since 2008, when three people convicted of the 2002 Bal…

Execution Ends Moratorium on Death Penalty; Hanging Erodes Pakistan's Most Tangible Human Rights Success

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After a 4-year unofficial moratorium, Pakistan has reverted to the odious practice of sending people to the gallows. Instead, the government should declare an official moratorium, commute all existing death sentences, and then abolish the death penalty for all crimes once and for all.
The Pakistani government should reinstate its moratorium on the death penalty following its troubling return to the dwindling ranks of countries imposing capital punishment. On November 15, 2012, military authorities hanged Muhammad Hussain, an army soldier convicted of murder, at Mianwali jail in Punjab province.
The hanging ended Pakistan's widely hailed unofficial moratorium on the death penalty that had been in place since 2008, Human Rights Watch said. According to official figures, Pakistan has more than 7,000 prisoners on death row, one of the largest populations of prisoners facing execution in the world.
"After a 4-year unofficial moratorium, Pakistan has reverted to the odious practic…

UAE: Death row duo pardoned by victim’s family

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Dubai: Two prisoners at Dubai Central Jail who are on death row for a murder they committed in 2001 are to be deported after being pardoned by relatives of their victim.
Serji Alexander Doboni from Russia who was 21 at the time of the crime and Sefiri Andre, an Ukrainian, will be freed after the Dubai Public Prosection technical office agreed to waive their death sentence after they were pardoned by the parents of the victim.
“I contacted my mother back home. I have my mother and my sister in Russia and I told them that I will be released and go back home,” Doboni said.
“I regret what I did. It was evil behaviour. I was young and careless. This is the lesson of my life. I just want to be with my mother. My father passed away during the time I have been in jail,” Doboni, who is 33 now, told Gulf News on Thursday.
Click here to read the full article
Source: Gulf News, November 22, 2012

Gaza: Hamas executes six suspected informants for Israel

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November 20, 2012: Masked gunmen publicly shot dead six suspected collaborators with Israel in a large Gaza City intersection, witnesses said. An Associated Press reporter saw a large mob surrounding five of the bloodied corpses shortly after the killing.
Some in the crowd stomped and spat on the bodies. A sixth corpse was tied to a motorcycle and dragged through the streets as people screamed, "Spy! Spy!"
The Hamas military wing, Izzedine al-Qassam, claimed responsibility in a large handwritten note attached to a nearby electricity pole. Hamas said the six were killed because they gave Israel information about fighters and rocket launching sites.
The killing came on the seventh day of an Israeli military offensive that has killed more than 120 Palestinians, both militants and civilians. Israel relies on a network of local informers to identify its targets in Gaza.
The six were killed in the afternoon in Gaza City's Sheik Radwan neighborhood.
Witnesses said a van stopp…

Six 'terrorists' hanged in mass Afghanistan executions

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Kabul: Afghanistan on Wednesday executed six "criminals and terrorists", an official said, a day after eight other death row prisoners were hanged in a rare mass executions in the war-wracked country.
The Taliban, which is leading an insurgency against the Western-backed government, had warned there would be reprisals if any of their militants were executed.
President Hamid Karzai approved the executions of the six who were sentenced to death "on charges of terror, conducting attacks, explosions and organising suicide attacks", a government spokesman said in a statement.
The Taliban, who are fighting Karzai's government and 100,000 NATO troops, said if what they called "prisoners of war" were executed there would be "heavy repercussions" for government officials.
It urged the United Nations, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the Red Cross and international rights groups to prevent the executions.
The Taliban, ousted from power by …