Posts

Showing posts from March, 2013

FEATURED POST

Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

Image
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…

Japan: 3 Aum death-row inmates to testify at Hirata's trial

Image
TOKYO — In an unusual move, prosecutors will call three former members of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult to testify in the trial of another former Aum member, Makoto Hirata, in a lay judge trial expected to begin at the Tokyo District Court later this year.
It will be the first time that death-row inmates have been called to tesify as witnesses, Sankei Shimbun reported Saturday.
The three are Tomomasa Nakagawa, 50, Yasuo Hayashi, 55, and Yoshihiro Inoue, 43. They are among 13 former Aum Shinrikyo members, including cult founder Shoko Asahara, who were sentenced to death for the 1995 Tokyo subway nerve gas attack, and several other crimes, including murder and kidnapping.
Hirata, 48, has been indicted for his role in the kidnapping and murder of a relative of a cult member in 1995. A few weeks later, on March 20, 1995, cult members used sarin gas on the Tokyo subway, leaving 13 people dead and about 6,300 injured. The coordinated attacks at stations near the center of Japan’s seat o…

Kuwait to carry out first executions since 2007

Image
Authorities deny live television broadcast rumours.
Manama: On Monday, Kuwait will end a six-year hiatus on capital punishment and carry out its first executions since 2007.
Security sources that three people, a Saudi, a Pakistani and a stateless resident (Bidoon) will be executed at 8am inside the central prison.
The Saudi was sentenced to death for killing his friend, while the Pakistani was found guilty of killing a Kuwaiti couple. The Bidoon was given the capital punishment for murdering his wife and their children, claiming that he did it under the order of the ‘Awaited Mahdi’, Kuwaiti media reported.
Rumours sweeping through the northern Arabian Gulf country in the morning that the three executions would be broadcast live on Kuwait Television were denied by the security sources as “baseless and lacking credibility”.
However, newspapers were told by the security forces that they could send journalists to cover the executions.
Several death sentences have been handed down in the l…

Zimbabwe hangman raises execution fears

Image
Harare, Zimbabwe - In Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, there are 77 convicts who have been condemned to death by hanging.
Held in solitary confinement in cells close to the gallows, some of those condemned to death have been there for more than a decade, their appeals rejected by President Robert Mugabe.
Although the death penalty is still on the books in Zimbabwe, there have been no executions since 2004, in part because there was no hangman.
But a macabre development could potentially activate the dormant penalty. Years of unsuccessful headhunting by the country’s Justice and Legal Affairs ended last September with a sombre announcement by Justice and Legal Affairs secretary David Mangota: the government had secured a hangman who was "raring to go".
Little is known of the hangman, who is rumoured to be from Malawi. Authorities have refused to clear any interviews with him.
The announcement came as a surprise, given the ambi…

Indonesia vs Saudi Arabia: The maid issue

Image
The treatment of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia especially domestic workers or maids has been a long standing issue. More migrant workers are executed in Saudi Arabia than in any other country. According to human rights groups, more than 45 Indonesian women are on death row.
Several NGOs believe that the exact number of foreign domestic workers on death row is almost certainly higher since the Saudi authorities do not publish official figures. Although the majority of the women are Indonesian, there are also Filipina, Indian, Ethiopian and Thai maids facing the death penalty.
Furthermore, they are also subjected to arrests on sham charges of theft, assault and even witchcraft. Often victims of rape and sexual violence, they are accused of adultery and fornication. Indonesian Association for Migrant Workers sovereignty, a human rights group recorded over 5, 560 reports of physical and sexual abuse in Saudi Arabia in 2010 alone.
A weak legal infrastructure combined with a lack of lega…

South Dakota: 'I'm here to say, not in my name'

Image
About 30 people gathered Friday outside the South Dakota state penitentiary in northern Sioux Falls in support of ending the death penalty in South Dakota.
The group met for about an hour for a vigil, mostly through prayer and reflection, not far from where two men, Donald Moeller and Eric Robert, were put to death by lethal injection last October.
The vigil, called the Annual Good Friday Vigil Against the Death Penalty, was organized by the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center, South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and Pax Christi.
The groups are not defending the actions of those on death row, said Mark Sanderson, a member of the Peace and Justice Center.
“It does not make sense in our society to kill someone who has killed other people,” Sanderson said. “It’s a matter of looking at the violence in our society and how this particular act is another indication on how we need to curb our violence the best that we can.”
The vigil has taken place for about 20 years next…

Slovak Court Commutes Death Sentence of Hungarian War Criminal Laszlo Csatary

Image
A Slovak court has commuted a death sentence imposed on a Hungarian World War Two criminal to life imprisonment although he remains under house arrest in his native country, the prosecution said on Thursday.
Laszlo Csatary, 98, was found guilty in absentia in 1948 of whipping or torturing Jews and helping to deport them to the Auschwitz death camp when he served as police commander in the eastern Slovak city of Kosice.
He was sentenced to death and lived on the run for decades until Hungarian authorities detained him and put him under house arrest in Budapest in July last year.
He has denied any guilt.
The sentence was changed to be in line with modern Slovak law. Czechoslovakia abolished the death penalty in 1990, three years before its division into Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Kosice prosecutor’s office spokesman Milan Filicko said.
“Once the decision takes effect, the court will decide whether it will issue an arrest warrant or how it will get him to serve the sentence,” he s…

Colorado Shooter James Holmes' Guilty Plea Offer Rejected

Image
Prosecutors are rejecting a plea agreement proposed by defense attorneys for James Holmes, the primary suspect in the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 and injured 70 last July. The agreement proposes a guilty plea if Mr. Holmes does not receive the death penalty.
Without a guilty plea from Holmes, his mental health would likely be the big question mark in a potential trial. Indeed, prosecutors said in court documents Thursday that the plea they rejected was “a calculated attempt” by the defense to convince the public that the criminal insanity defense has merit.
At an August hearing immediately following the shooting, Holmes's attorneys told a judge that his client was mentally ill and time was needed to assess the extent and nature of his illness.
The insanity defense will make the trial difficult for the prosecution because, in contrast to the vast majority of states, Colorado puts the burden of proof on the prosecution, rather than on the defen…

Texas delays Kimberly McCarthy's execution

Image
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A woman scheduled to be put to death next week has been given a temporary stay of execution. Kimberly McCarthy of Lancaster was convicted of the brutal 1997 murder of an elderly neighbor. But a press release from Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said that her execution date has been moved from April 3 to June 26.
McCarthy was sentenced to death for the robbery, beating and fatal stabbing of 71-year-old retired college professor Dorothy Booth.
In the District Attorney’s statement, Watkins said, “When I sign a death warrant in Dallas County, I want the public to trust that the inmate who was sentenced to death by a jury received a fair trial.”
The delay comes as “six proposed bills seek to improve the fairness of the ultimate punishment.” Those six bills in the Legislature address a number of issues involving death penalty cases.
Watkins will be in court on Friday morning to formally announce the agreement for a temporary stay of McCarthy’s execution.

Colorado: James Holmes offers guilty plea to avoid death penalty

Image
Attorneys for Denver-area theater shooting suspect James Holmes have offered to have him plead guilty and be jailed for life to avoid the death penalty, KUSA-TV is reporting.
The prosecution has not yet responded to the offer, which came in a court filing Wednesday.
"Mr. Holmes is currently willing to resolve the case to bring the proceedings to a speedy and definite conclusion," the filing reads.
The defense team said the case could end Monday if the Arapahoe County district attorney accepts the deal. Prosecutors planned to announce Monday whether they would seek the death penalty.
Holmes, 25, is charged with 1st-degree murder for the July 20 rampage that killed 12 moviegoers and wounded nearly 60 others at the premiere of the latest Batman film at a multiplex in Aurora.
On March 12, a judge entered a not guilty plea on Holmes' behalf but said Holmes could enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity later.
Source: USA Today, March 27, 2013

Saudi Arabia: Man sentenced to death for aborting 40 women

Image
March 25, 2013: A Saudi court sentenced a man to death after he was convicted of aborting more than 40 pregnant women and practicing magic, which is strictly banned in the conservative Moslem Gulf Kingdom, newspapers reported.
The unidentified man, in his 40s, was also accused of practicing sorcery to separate couples with the aim of extorting them, they said.
Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia’s feared religious police, had arrested the man in the western town of Taif, the papers said, adding that the defendant had confessed to his crimes.
Source: emirates247.com, March 23, 2013

Iraq executes 18 despite international outcry

Image
Baghdad: Iraq executed 18 people this month, eight of them on the same day as an attack on the justice ministry, a top official said on Wednesday, despite global condemnation over its ongoing executions.
They were the first confirmed executions this year, after Justice Minister Hassan Al Shammari insisted last week that Baghdad would continue to implement the death penalty in the face of widespread calls for it to issue a moratorium.
Iraq executed at least 129 people last year, according to the justice ministry.
“On Thursday [March 14], we executed eight, and then on Sunday [March 17], we executed 10,” Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ebrahim said.
He said that all 18 were convicted of terror-related offences, and that all were Iraqi men.
He declined to give a breakdown of where they were from, but said that some had been tried in northern Nineveh province and some in Baghdad, with others in unspecified provinces.
Eight of the executions coincided with a coordinated attack on the justic…

Saudi executes, crucifies Yemeni murderer

Image
Riyadh: Saudi authorities on Wednesday beheaded a Yemeni man and then crucified his body after he was convicted of murdering a Pakistani national, the kingdom's interior ministry announced.
The Yemeni citizen Mohammad Rashad Khairi Hussain killed a Pakistani, Pashteh Sayed Khan, after he committed sodomy with him, said a statement carried by state news agency SPA.
The Yemeni was also convicted of carrying out a series of attacks and robberies.
The execution in the southern city of Jizan was followed by crucifixion, implemented by the ultra-conservative country for serious crimes.
The beheading brings to 28 the number of people put to death in Saudi Arabia so far this year.
In 2012, the kingdom executed 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. The US-based Human Rights Watch put the number at 69.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law.
Source: Ag…

Texas man gets new trial amid arson finding doubts

Image
DALLAS (AP) — A Texas man convicted of setting a fire that killed his two stepsons was granted a new trial Wednesday by the state's highest criminal court, which sided with experts who question the fire investigation used to convict him.
Ed Graf's case is one of several flagged by a new state panel re-examining arson investigations. The Texas state fire marshal is working with criminal justice advocates who say many arson convictions have been won with the help of faulty scientific conclusions.
Graf was given life in prison for the 1986 fire in a backyard shed that killed 9-year-old Joby and 8-year-old Jason. Four reviews of the original fire forensics in Graf's case, including one commissioned by prosecutors, found investigators may have drawn the wrong conclusions from photos of charring and burn patterns and that the fire could have been an accident.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered Graf's conviction set aside Wednesday.
The original investigation deter…

Colorado legislature snuffs bill to repeal death penalty

Image
Colorado may follow Maryland in abolishing the death penalty this year, but the repeal will have to come at the hands of voters, not the state legislature.
The House Judiciary Committee killed a bill Tuesday to repeal the death penalty by a vote of 6-4, with 2 Democrats siding with Republicans in opposing the measure. Still alive is a bill that would refer the issue to the voters on the November ballot.
Democratic state Rep. Lois Court said she was persuaded to vote against the bill by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who had expressed reservations about abolishing the death penalty without consulting voters.
"I know we should repeal the death penalty. I also know that the governor has publicly said that he is struggling with it, and that he is not confident that the people of Colorado are comfortable with this approach at this point," said Mrs. Court.
Capital punishment is used sparingly in Colorado: the state has executed only 1 inmate since 1976, and there are just 3 inmates on t…

Indonesia: Yudhoyono's hypocrisy in U-turn on death penalty

Image
Indonesia's execution this month of narcotics convict Adami Wilson further tarnishes President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's human rights record. It reflects hypocrisy on the part of Yudhoyono, whose government continues to advocate for all Indonesians facing possible execution abroad.
Wilson, a Malawi national, was the first prisoner to be executed in Indonesia since 2008. His death should spur a more measured international appraisal of Yudhoyono, as a leader who has repeatedly shrunk from progressive reform during his second term.
On a series of human rights issues, Yudhoyono has flirted with a progressive stance, before failing to deliver. He has not apologised to victims of past human rights abuses, a plan publicised by an adviser last year. Nor has Yudhoyono invested the same political capital into efforts to resolve conflict in Papua as he did for Aceh in 2005. Yudhoyono has also allowed attacks on minority groups to proceed essentially unchecked, despite assurances that h…

Belarus Free Theatre to bring battle against death penalty to UK

Image
Belarus Free Theatre will present a new piece – their first in English – that challenges the use of capital punishment around the world at the Young Vic this summer.
Trash Cuisine, which will follow its London dates with a week-long run at the Edinburgh Fringe, will argue that state-sanctioned capital punishment breeds a wider culture of violence. It will blend verbatim testimony with music, dance and sections from Shakespeare's tragedies.
Belarus is the last European country to employ the death penalty, and was urged last year to abandon the policy by the EU and Human Rights Watch in the wake of two high-profile executions. Vladislav Kovalyov and Dmitry Konovalov, both 26, were put to death last March after being convicted of a bomb attack that took place less than a year before. Kovalyov's mother has since travelled around the world, maintaining her son's innocence.
Trash Cuisine will also feature testimonials drawn from some of the other 94 countries worldwide where the …

Delaware Senate approves death penalty repeal bill

Image
Measure heads to House for consideration
Legislation to repeal the death penalty in Delaware passed the Senate this evening after a lengthy, impassioned debate over the merits of capital punishment.
The bill was moved to the House with the narrowest majority, 11 votes to 10. Five Democrats and five Republicans voted no on the legislation.
Debate began with an amendment to preserve the sentences of 17 men currently on death row in the state.
The legislation, sponsored by Newark Sen. Karen Peterson, eliminates the death penalty from Delaware’s criminal code, making life in prison without the possibility of probation or parole the maximum penalty for the crime of first-degree murder.
In its original form, the bill would have commuted the sentences of the state’s death-row inmates to life in prison, but Peterson attached an amendment to the bill shortly after bringing it to the Senate floor that removed all mention of current capital offenders.
The amendment passed with 18 votes in the Se…

Huge blow to Chan's Bali 9 clemency bid

Image
The Bali 9's Andrew Chan has been dealt a massive blow with Indonesia's National Narcotics Board believed to have recommended that his death sentence should be upheld.
A senior source involved in considering Chan's clemency application has told AAP that the narcotics board's decision was also in line with the recommendation of a Supreme Court judge.
Both the narcotics board and Supreme Court Justice Salman Luthan were asked by the office of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to provide a recommendation on Chan's clemency request.
"For Andrew Chan ... the goods involved so many kilos, right? It's difficult when it comes to this," he told AAP.
"So, we're just following what's requested to us and what's been recommended, that it's a 'no.'"
Justice Salman completed his recommendation in relation to Chan's clemency bid more than a month ago. It has been forwarded to the president's office.
..."Our recommendat…

Gaza: Plea not to endorse collaborator's death penalty

Image
132 capital punishment verdicts issued since PNA's establishment in West Bank and Gaza
Human rights organisations in the Palestinian territories have urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas not to endorse the death sentence passed by the Gaza Military Court against a collaborator with Israel, labelling the sentence 'tough and inhuman'.
The rights organisations have also demanded the suspension of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Revolutionary Penalty Law of 1979, as it is not a constitutional law ratified by the Palestinian parliament.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said that all Palestinian laws which lead to capital punishment, including the Penalty Law No 74 of 1936, which is used in the Gaza Strip, and the Jordanian Penalty Law No 16 for 1960 should be reviewed, and the Palestinian leadership should impose a unified penalty law which fits with the spirit of international human rights agreements and conventions.
On Sunday, the Gaza Military Court…

Oklahoma House approves changes to death penalty

Image
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House has overwhelmingly approved a bill to make the death penalty an option in first-degree murder cases only if the state is seeking it. Current law tells judges to consider the penalty even if the state doesn't ask for it.
The chamber voted 82-10 Tuesday in support of the proposal from Rep. Scott Biggs of Chickasha. It has already passed the Senate and now waits for Gov. Mary Fallin's signature to become law.
Courts currently have hearings after convictions of first-degree murder to consider life in prison, life without parole or death as punishments. Biggs' bill would specify that if the state isn't seeking death but can still show the suspect has a history of felonies, life and life without parole — not death — will be considered.
Source: AP, March 26, 2013

Inmate on Kentucky's death row rejected for hip surgery

Image
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two Kentucky hospitals have rejected requests to perform a $56,000 hip replacement surgery on a death row inmate whose execution date could come this year.
After more than a year of efforts to find a facility to perform the surgery on 56-year-old Robert Foley, the University of Louisville Hospital and the University of Kentucky Medical Center turned down the state’s request.
The decisions are noted in a court filing Tuesday. They leave Foley’s immediate future in limbo, but he is one of two Kentucky death row inmates whose executions are waiting to be scheduled.
Foley was convicted of killing six people in eastern Kentucky in 1989 and 1991, making him the most prolific killer on the state’s death row.
Kentucky is trying to restart executions after a nearly four-year delay.
Source: The Associated Press, March 26, 2013

Arkansas judge rules state's lethal injection records are exempt from Freedom of Information Act

Image
Death-row inmates cannot use Arkansas' open records law to obtain information about the origin, history of quality of the drugs the state will use to execute them, a state judge ruled Monday.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Collins Kilgore ruled after a hearing Monday that communication between the Department of Correction and a drug company was not subject to disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act - even for the inmates who may one day receive a fatal dose.
6 condemned killers sought the information despite a section of the FOI law that limits the release of certain information about execution procedures - including how the drugs are obtained. The Legislature last month changed execution procedures after the state Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that previous lawmakers had given the Correction Department too much control over the process.
Kilgore said that, following a review of emails and other communication between the Department of Correction and a drug company, he…

Denmark indirectly supporting Iranian drug executions

Image
By supporting a UN anti-drug programme operating in Iran, Denmark may be helping Iranian authorities arrest and execute suspected drug users and smugglers.
Denmark voluntarily supports the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which supports countries around the world in tackling drug-related crime.
But Denmark’s approximate 35 million kroner donation to the programme may be contributing to the number of drug traffickers and users arrested and subsequently executed in Iran, according to Amnesty Danmark.
The wish to limit the drug trade is of course legitimate, but as the situation stands in Iran, the money could end up supporting arrests and ultimately executions,” Trine Christensen, the deputy general secretary at Amnesty Danmark, told Politiken newspaper. “If we continue to support the programme, it legitimises Iran’s use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes.”
As a result, Amnesty estimates that around 260,000 people were arrested in 2011 for drug-related offenc…

Japan's LDP 'playing politics' with death penalty

Image
It was shortly after dawn on February 21 when Kaoru Kobayashi was informed that it was to be his last day alive. Officers at the Osaka Detention Centre told the former newspaper delivery man that the justice minister had signed the paperwork to allow his execution to go ahead.
Two other death-row prisoners were hanged the same day. Masahiro Kanagawa, aged 29, had been found guilty of killing one man and injuring seven others in a random knife spree in Ibaraki prefecture in 2008, while 62-year-old Keiki Kano was executed for the murder of a bar owner in Nagoya in March 2002.
At a news conference that day, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said: "All these cases involved atrocious crimes that stole precious lives for selfish reasons."
Questioned by reporters, Tanigaki declined to comment on the timing of the executions or why the three men had been chosen from the 130 on death row.
But opponents of the death penalty believe they know why Tanigaki, part of the Liberal Democra…

Execution and Indonesia’s justice system

Image
Adami Wilson’s execution on March 15, is a timely reminder that the death penalty remains part of Indonesia’s rule of law landscape. Much of the reportage of Wilson’s execution highlighted his continuing criminality in jail. The message is none too subtle — “He deserved to die”.
It may well be that for more and more Indonesians that message misses the point. It is not a question of whether he deserved to die, but rather whether he needed to.
Is killing power how, in a modern Indonesia, respect for the rule of law should be upheld, or is there a better way?

The Indonesian government’s efforts to save its nationals on death row in places like Saudi Arabia or Malaysia has been applauded internationally. Those efforts sit well with the unmistakable momentum worldwide to abolish the death penalty.
When the government helps its nationals facing execution, it does so without judging whether they deserve to die. The criteria for diplomatic assistance is whether it is needed, not whether it is…

Singapore: Call for guidelines on capital offence cases

Image
A former senior district judge has called for guidelines on how judges should use their discretion to decide if a capital offender should hang or get a life term.
At issue is whether such discretion will lead to inconsistency in sentencing, said Dr S. Chandra Mohan, now a Singapore Management University law don.
He raised these points in an article titled The Death Penalty and the Desirability of Judicial Discretion, in the current issue of the Law Society's Law Gazette.
His comments about granting judges complete discretion to impose death or life sentences for certain murder offences come at a time when the new provisions passed by Parliament last year could be tested in a murder case for the 1st time.
The sentence of death row inmate Kamrul Hasan Abdul Kudus, convicted of killing a 25-year-old maid, is set to be reviewed by the Court of Appeal in light of the new provisions. A pre-trial conference is due next month.
It is understood that the apex court could use the case to in…

Puerto Rico jury spares killer from death penalty

Image
A Puerto Rico man previously convicted of masterminding one of the island's biggest mass shootings was spared the death penalty on Saturday.
The sentencing deliberations for 41-year-old Alexis Candelario Santana ended with a hung jury, meaning he will serve life in prison. He had been found guilty earlier this month in the deaths of eight people and an 8-month-old fetus following an October 2009 bar shooting that also injured more than 20 others.
It is the 5th time a Puerto Rican jury has rejected a federal death penalty case.
Candelario raised both hands in the air upon hearing the verdict, joining thousands of people across the island who celebrated as well, noting that the U.S. territory's constitution prohibits capital punishment. Candelario, however, was being tried in federal court, which allows for the death penalty.
Among those celebrating was Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who said he asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday to cease pursuing death penalty c…

California: Death row inmates challenge use of death penalty drug

Image
Daniel Wayne Cook sexually assaulted, tortured and killed 2 men, a jury agreed. He's dead now, executed last August in an Arizona prison. But Cook's name lives on, as part of a lawsuit challenging the Food and Drug Administration's allowing importation of a drug used in executions by injection.
Death row inmates in California and several other states are now carrying on the challenge first filed under Cook's name, though of course none will be present Monday when a top appellate court debates the case that's 1 of many attacking lethal injection.
"They're trying to conduct this war on as many fronts as possible," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a nonprofit public interest law group. "I think this one is important for the way the inmates went after the death penalty by suing the FDA."
Scheidegger, a death penalty supporter, filed a friend-of-the-court brief that prompted additi…