Showing posts from May, 2013


USA | Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death is a terrible opportunity for Trump

"Sometimes it felt like she was America’s last hope. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court judge since 1993, achieved celebrity status during Trump’s four years. Affectionately given the nickname “Notorious R.B.G” by a slew of online followers, she was the subject of superhero memes and the inspiration for much light-hearted merchandise (Urban Outfitters stocks T-shirts emblazoned with her face and her famously blunt quotes, and I gifted a friend in Brooklyn a cuddly Ginsburg doll for her newborn last year.)
Beneath the jokes, the quotes and the well-designed tote bags, however, ran an undercurrent of anxiety and fear. The fact that Supreme Court judges have lifetime appointments meant that many were morbidly obsessed with Ginsburg — who battled cancer on numerous occasions, and died of its complications today — staying alive long enough to get to the election. She herself clearly felt the same way, if NPR’s reports about her dying wishes are to be believed: “My most fervent wish is …

Appeals, Clemency ‘Hold Back’ Executions in Indonesia

Despite opposition to executions of Indonesian nationals abroad, some officials are urging liberal use of the death penalty, especially for drug-related offenses.
Inmates on death row are abusing appeals and requests for clemency to avoid their sentences, according to Ma’ruf Amin, a member of the Presidential Advisory Council for inter-religious affairs.
“The death penalty has been decided, but still it can’t be carried out. It’s there, but it’s not,” he said during a discussion titled “Death Penalty for Drug Criminals,” held by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) in Jakarta on Thursday.
Ma’ruf argued that delaying executions appeared to be part of a well-planned strategy by unscrupulous parties.
“The way I see it, this is being done by design, but I don’t know who the people behind it are. It is therefore important that we investigate this in order to eliminate such constraints,” he said.
Speaking at the same event, Djoko Sarwoko, a former Supreme Court justice, agreed that there had…

Iran: Two hanged in Karaj

Iran Human Rights, May 30: Two men were hanged in Rajai Shahr Prison of Karaj (west of Tehran).
According to the Iranian daily newspaper "Javan" two prisoners were hanged in the Rajai Shahr Prison last Wednesday.
One of the prisoners was identified as "Alireza" convicted of pouring acid on the face of his stepfather in 2005.
The stepfather died a few days later as a result of the injuries. The report didn’t mention Alireza’s age at the time of committing the alleged offence.
The other prisoner, an Afghan citizen identified as "Mohammad", was convicted of murdering an old couple and stealing their jewelry, said the report.
Source: Iran Human Rights, May 30, 2013

Remembering Executed Veterans

Memorial Day is over, with its picnics, parades, and poignant remembrances of the veterans who gave their lives in America's wars. But there is one group of vets few want to remember: the ones who went to war, came back tragically changed, committed a crime and were executed.
Vets like Wayne Felde, who arrived in Vietnam on his 19th birthday by choice, not by the draft; who saw heavy action and was wounded; who came back to the U.S. hounded by his memories of death and crippled by what those memories did to him. Drunk, unable to hold down a job or a marriage, in trouble with the law, he was probably trying to kill himself when his gun went off while he was in the back of a police car. The bullet ricocheted and killed an officer. He was sent to death row, and in March of 1988, executed by the state of Louisiana.
Or a veteran like Louis Jones, executed in all our names by the federal government on March 18, 2003. Jones served with great distinction in Grenada and the 1st Gulf War, …

California's death penalty on hold again

Ensuring California's death penalty system remains in limbo for the foreseeable future, a state appeals court on Thursday scrapped the state's latest attempt to update its lethal injection procedures.
In a 28-page ruling, the 1st District Court of Appeal invalidated California's lethal injection procedures, finding that state prison officials failed to comply with proper administrative rules when crafting new regulations more than two years ago. The decision sends California back to the drawing board, unless the Brown administration appeals the decision to the California Supreme Court.
The appeals court upheld a Marin County judge, who likewise found the prison department failed to comply with the state's administrative procedures act for a variety of reasons, including providing no public explanation for why San Quentin officials opted to continue with a three-drug lethal injection method as opposed to a single drug execution option being embraced by a number of othe…

Life on Penalty of Death

As summer heats up, debate over the death penalty is back and rising to a fever pitch. There's the sentencing of Jodi Arias, the filibustering of an abolition vote in Nebraska, the signing of the death penalty repeal in Maryland, the temporary reprieve of a death row prisoner in Colorado and the controversy around a bill aimed at speeding up executions in Florida.
Throughout recent public discussions, there's been lots of talk about budgets, degrees of "justice" (is life without parole sufficiently horrible?) and the ever-present possibility of accidentally executing an innocent prisoner. Surprisingly little attention has been paid to the question of humanity: Are people convicted of murder exiled from our species - or are they still human? If they are, what does it mean for the state to not only legitimize the principle of taking a human life, but also, simply, to take a human life? What exactly does "taking" a life entail?
As phrases like "cold-bloo…

Iran amends law on stoning for adultery

TEHERAN, Iran - Iran has amended its internationally condemned law on stoning convicted adulterers to death to allow judges to impose a different form of execution, according to the revision seen by AFP on Thursday.
The controversial practice, in which stones are thrown at the partially buried offender, has provoked outcries from human rights organisations, international bodies and Western countries urging Iran to abandon it.
An article of Iran's Islamic new penal code, published earlier this week, states that, "if the possibility of carrying out the (stoning) verdict does not exist," the sentencing judge may order another form of execution pending final approval by the judiciary chief.
The article does not explain what is meant by the possibility of stoning not existing.
In Iran, executions are normally carried out by hanging.
Under Iran's interpretation of Islamic Sharia law in force since its 1979 revolution, adultery is punished by the stoning of convicted adult…

'In Cold Blood' DNA testing inconclusive, so far

DNA testing so far has been inconclusive on whether 2 men executed in Kansas for the 1959 killings that inspired the book "In Cold Blood" can also be linked to the unsolved slayings of a Florida family weeks later, a senior investigator said Wednesday.
Kansas Bureau of Investigation will continue testing material collected from the remains of convicted murderers Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, Deputy Director Kyle Smith said. Investigators believe the men fled to Florida after killing the Clutter family in a gruesome case later documented by Truman Capote in his genre-forming classic.
"The analysis is not completed," Kyle Smith told The Associated Press. "We are still trying."
In Florida, the Sarasota County sheriff's office says it remains optimistic that it can resolve questions about the killings of 4 family members, just days before Christmas 1959. A detective there began investigating the case again in 2007.
"Hopefully, science will be abl…

Florida executes Elmer Carroll

ORLANDO (CBS Miami/AP) — A man convicted of raping and strangling a 10-year-old girl was executed by lethal injection at the Florida State Prison in Starke, Wednesday. He was pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m.
56-year-old Elmer Carroll’s last chance at a reprieve was before the U.S. Supreme Court. His attorney filed the petition saying Carroll should have been considered mentally ill at the time of the murder.
Attorneys tried for more than two decades to appeal the death sentence, but were not successful.
“As far as I’m concerned, he was mentally ill at the time of the offense,” said Carroll’s attorney, Michael Reiter. “He has had mental illness all of his life.”
Prosecutors disagreed and several courts have upheld Carroll’s competency to stand trial and be put to death.
“Carroll does not meet, much less even allege, he meets either the definition of, or, factual requirements to be considered sufficiently mentally ill to bar his execution,” Assistant Attorney General Scott Browne wrote in…

Exceptions to Harsh Rules

On Tuesday [May 28, 2013], the Supreme Court handed down two important criminal procedure decisions, both allowing defendants to seek habeas corpus review of their convictions in federal court.
The 5-to-4 majority, with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the court’s four moderate liberals, reached the right result in each case. But, in a larger sense, the two decisions show how much the scope of habeas review has been curtailed by the Supreme Court in the last three decades, so that it now must work around earlier precedents to avoid doing injustice.
In a case from Texas, Trevino v. Thaler, the court ruled that a death-row inmate in Texas can make the claim of ineffective counsel for the first time in a federal habeas petition because the rules of Texas procedure made it virtually impossible for him to raise that issue during an appeal in state court.
In a case from Michigan, McQuiggin v. Perkins, the court ruled correctly that an inmate who can make a credible showing of actual innocen…

Police Officer Publicly Caned in Aceh for Gambling

A police officer was publicly caned in an Aceh district on Tuesday for violating Shariah law, making him the first law enforcer to receive such a punishment.
Darwin, the head of general crimes unit at the Sabang Attorney’s Office, told the Jakarta Globe that Brig. Irwanuddin was lashed six times for gambling in the district of Aceh Besar.
He was the first policeman punished for violating a “qanun” (bylaw) since the province implemented partial Shariah law in some districts.
Irwanuddin’s caning was conducted at the Sabang Great Mosque in front of hundreds of onlookers from all over the province.
Darwin said his office initially planned to institute the same punishment for two other civilians, though they managed to run away before the officials could find them.
Previously it was reported that the public caning, which was scheduled for Thursday, was broken up by a group of policeman led by an officer who refused to identify himself, with only his rank of police commissioner visible.

Botswana: Inmate on Six Death Sentences Executed

May 27, 2013: A Botswana man who was handed six death sentences for murdering his family after a misunderstanding over food was executed.
The Botswana Prison Service confirmed that Orelesitse Modise Thokamolemo’s hanging was carried out early in the morning at Gaborone Central Prison.
The capital punishment came after a death sentence was imposed on him on December 9, 2010 by the Francistown High Court for the offence.
The Court of Appeal last month struck out an appeal against the sentence.
Thokamolemo had approached the Court of Appeal for both conviction and death sentence.
The trial court found that Thokamolemo killed six members of his family, among them his brother and a four-month-old baby using an axe in January 2008.
“After anxious inquiring of mind of this matter, I also find no misdirection by the trial court in considering the effect of dagga taken by the appellant and giving it weight,” Judge Isaac Lesetedi said last month.
Source:, May 28, 2013

Appeals Court Affirms Michigan Death Sentence

DETROIT (AP) - An appeals court on Tuesday upheld the conviction and rare federal death sentence of a western Michigan man who was accused of killing a woman in a national forest in 1997 before she could testify against him in a rape case.
Michigan outlawed the death penalty in 1846. But the victim was killed on federal property, which put the case in federal court and allowed the government to seek the ultimate punishment for Marvin Gabrion.
Gabrion’s conviction and sentence were affirmed, 12-4, by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
A key part of Gabrion’s appeal was that his attorneys were barred from making certain argument to jurors during the sentencing phase in 2002. They couldn’t try to sway the jury against death by saying he would only face a life sentence if the trial had been in state court.
But the appeals court said Michigan’s lack of a certain punishment is not a mitigating factor to argue in a death penalty case.
Gabrion, 59, is in federal prison in Terre Haute, In…

Papua New Guinea revives death penalty, repeals sorcery law

SYDNEY: Papua New Guinea pressed ahead Tuesday with a controversial revival of the death penalty, passing laws allowing execution by a range of methods, while repealing its contested sorcery act.
The impoverished Pacific nation’s parliament voted to extend the long-dormant death penalty to cover rape, robbery and murder with new legislation permitting hanging, electrocution and firing squad executions.
Lethal injection and medical asphyxiation — which it did not define — will also be permitted methods under the law, which will provide the death sentence for crimes including aggravated rape or gang rape of a child under the age of 10.
“Which method to be used will be determined by the head of state on advice from the National Executive Council,” a spokesman for Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said in a statement.
“These are very tough penalties, but they reflect the seriousness of the nature of the crimes and the demand by the community for parliament to act.”
Death sentences are current…

Zambia President Michael Sata pardons 615 inmates, commutes 113 death sentences to life

May 26, 2013: Zambia President Michael Chilufya Sata has pardoned 615 inmates with minor offenses countrywide while 113 have had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
Mr Sata said when he addressed the nation on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) on the eve of Africa Freedom Day that this is part of the celebrations.
Commissioner of Prisons Percy Chato disclosed in an interview from Kabwe yesterday that the 113 who were condemned to death had their sentences reduced to life imprisonment with immediate effect.
He said the President’s move to pardon prisoners is in accordance with Article 51 of the Constitution.
President Sata said during his address that there is need to emulate the selfless spirit of the country’s founding fathers and mothers by creating a united front against the many challenges the country is facing.
He said it is only through unity that citizens could build a stronger and better Zambia for all.
The theme for this year’s Africa Freedom D…

Amnesty International Report Bashes Indonesia

Amnesty International has decried a repressive human rights climate in Indonesia and a worrying lack of progress in addressing past abuses, in a report that is also the third in as many weeks to criticize rising religious intolerance in the country.
The 2013 report on “The State of the World’s Human Rights,” released today, cited problems in six areas, including “persistent allegations” of rights violations by police, repressive legislation invoked against peaceful political activists and the continued criminalization of freedom of religion.
Other problem areas were women’s rights, where Amnesty identified various setbacks and obstacles, as well as scant progress in delivering justice for past rights violations and the continued practice of handing down the death penalty — although no executions were carried out in 2012, the year in review in the report.
On the issue of rights violations by police and security forces, the report cited “excessive use of force and firearms, and torture…

Iran: Woman Flogged 100 Times then Hanged

Iran Human Rights, May 25: According to unofficial sources in Iran, at least one woman was hanged on Wednesday, May 22 in Gharchak Prison, located in Varamin (a city near Tehran).
According to a report by Human Rights and Democracy Activists in Iran, the woman was identified as Giti Marami. She was 34 years old, married, and had one daughter. The report has also been confirmed by Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)
According to the reports, Mrs. Marami was flogged 100 times before she was hanged. Although the hanging occurred four days ago, state media in Iran has not released news of this execution.
The report states Mrs. Marami’s husband, Isa Aman Pour was sentenced to death 13 years ago and is in imminent danger of execution. 
Source: Iran Human Rights, May 25, 2013

Darfur: Three men sentenced to death by crucifixion

May 25, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – A special court in Sudan’s Darfur region has sentenced to death three men who are likely to be hanged, their bodies later crucified and publicly displayed, if the court’s decision is implemented.
The verdict was delivered on 6 May by Judge Sif Eldien Abdulrhman Ishag of the Special Criminal Court on the Events in Darfur (SCCED) in Al – Daien, East Darfur, ending the five-day trial with four court sessions.
The three convicted men include, Ibrahim Abidein, 30, Edriss Khubub and Al-Sidig Mohamed, 29, all members of the Reizegat tribe from East Darfur state.
The trio men were reportedly convicted of the murder of Ahmed Salim, a prominent community leader and mayor of the Al – Maalia, an Arab ethnic group in East Darfur, on 27 April 2013.
Under Sudanese law, however, the defendants reportedly have the right to two appeals before the SCCED.
At least 13 witnesses were reportedly interviewed during the three sessions of the trial, while the last trial was reserved …

America's 10 Worst Prisons: Polunsky

"The most lethal [death row] anywhere in the democratic world" is also probably "the hardest place to do time in Texas," writes Robert Perkinson, author of the book TexasTough. Indeed, the all-solitary Allan B. Polunsky Unit houses condemned Texans under some of the nation's harshest death row conditions. The prisoners are housed in single cells on 22-hour-a-day lockdown, and even during their daily "recreation" hour, they are confined in separate cages. With no access to phones, televisions, contact visits, they remain in essentially a concrete tomb (PDF) until execution day—a stretch of at least three years for the mandatory appeals, and far longer if they opt to keep fighting. Some have been known to commit suicide or waive their appeals rather than continue living under such conditions.
The backlash: At Polunsky, the "emotional torture" of awaiting death in total isolation is "driving men out of their minds," former prisoner An…

Japan: Death sentence decisions take emotional toll on citizen judges

A young man in Kanagawa Prefecture always gets nervous when he sees a headline about an execution in Japan. He fears that Sumitoshi Tsuda has been sent to the gallows.
“I cannot help but look to see if Tsuda-san’s name is there,” the 24-year-old man said. “I find myself relieved if his name is not among those who were executed.”
The Kanagawa man was, in fact, involved in sending Tsuda to death row.
The lay judge system was introduced in May 2009 as part of judiciary reform to reflect a commonsense view of the public in a realm long dominated by professional judges.
Many citizen judges are now struggling to come to terms with their decisions that will ultimately result in the death of a stranger.
One has even sued the government over the acute stress disorder she developed as a result of her lay judge experience.
Government officials, including Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, have noted the emotional impact the experience can have on citizen judges, but there are no plans in place…

Hamas court sentences "collaborator" to death

A military court in the Gaza Strip has sentenced a Palestinian Authority resident to death for collaborating with Israel and another to life with hard labor, the Hamas interior ministry said on Thursday, according to the AFP news agency,
The 43-year-old, identified only by his initials AH, "has been sentenced to capital punishment for acts of collaboration with the occupation", a ministry statement said.
It said the life term was handed down to the second man, a 53-year-old identified as FM.
It was the third death sentence announced this year by the Islamist terrorist movement.
Two Palestinian Authority Arabs were hanged in April 2010 for collaboration with Israel in the first executions carried out by Hamas, which seized Gaza in June 2007 from the secular Fatah movement.
Under Palestinian law, collaborators, murderers and drugs traffickers all face the death penalty, according to AFP.
Source: Agence France-Presse, May 23, 2013

Texas: Dad who drowned sons gets death penalty; woman on death row for boy’s starvation loses appeal

Naim Rasool Muhammad was sentenced to death for drowning his two sons in a creek.
The Texas jury that convicted Naim Rasoon Muhammad, 34, of abducting his two sons and drowning them in a creek, sentenced him to death, NBC News Dallas-Fort Worth reported Thursday.
"I apologize for bringing any pain and hurt on anybody for the actions that I have caused to you all," Muhammad said after the sentencing.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Muhammad drowned 5-year-old Naim and 3-year-old Elijah to get back at their mother for leaving him.
In 2011, he abducted the boys and their mother, Kametra Sampson, as they walked Naim to his first day of kindergarten. Sampson escaped and called for help, but Muhammad asked the boys to pretend they were swimming and held them under creek water until they drowned.
"You've shown that you have no boundaries, that nothing is sacred to you -- not even the bond between a father and son," Sampson said.
In an attempt to garner Muhammad…

Arizona: Jurors deadlock on Jodi Arias penalty

PHOENIX (AP) - The judge in the Jodi Arias murder trial declared a mistrial in the penalty phase Thursday after the jury reported for a second time that it was deadlocked on whether to sentence her to life in prison or death for killing her boyfriend in 2008.
The judge scheduled a retrial for July 18. A new panel likely will be seated to try again to reach a decision on a sentence - unless the prosecutor takes death off the table agrees to a life sentence.
Under Arizona law, a hung jury in the death penalty phase of a trial requires a new jury to be seated to decide the punishment. If the second jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the judge would then sentence Arias to spend her entire life in prison or be eligible for release after 25 years. The judge cannot sentence Arias to death.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley has said the case could drag on for several more months as the new jury reviews evidence and hears opening statements, closing arguments and witness testim…

Colorado: Hickenlooper strikes major blow to death penalty

In Colorado, a moderate Governor temporarily halts an execution, raising huge questions about capital punishment
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is known for a lot of things – his cheery nature, his self-promoted “quirkiness,” his beer-brewing background, his loyalty to his oil and gas donors – but he is not known for being a particularly courageous conviction politician. After all, much of the high-profile change that has happened in Colorado has come not from his strong leadership, but from the Democratic-controlled legislature forcing his hand.
But in a stunning announcement today, Hickenlooper displayed a burst of genuine courage rarely seen anywhere in politics, much less in Colorado’s ultra-cautious Democratic Party culture. Facing the decision of whether to execute convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap for his role in 1993′s infamous Chuck E. Cheese killings, Hickenlooper used a temporary reprieve order for Dunlap to raise huge questions surrounding the death penalty itself.

Federal appeals court allows capital murder retrial of Justin Wolfe; lower court had ordered him freed

McLEAN, Va. — A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Virginia should be allowed to pursue a capital murder case against an alleged drug kingpin from northern Virginia, overruling a lower court that had sought to put an end to the 12-year legal saga by ordering his unconditional release.
In a 2-1 ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond overturned a federal judge in Norfolk who had ordered a halt to the prosecution of Justin Wolfe, who faces death penalty charges in Prince William County for the 2001 slaying of a large-scale marijuana supplier, Daniel Petrole.
The district court judge, Raymond Jackson, said misconduct by prosecutors in Prince William County made it impossible for Wolfe to get a fair trial.
But a majority on the appellate court disagreed. Judges Robert Bruce King and Allyson Kay Duncan ruled that a new trial can be done fairly. They wrote that Jackson “fashioned an overbroad remedy and thereby abused (his) discretion by precluding the Commonwealt…

UK: Appeals Court releases judgment detailing decision to dismiss appeal launched Lindsay Sandiford

MOSCOW, May 23 (RAPSI, Ingrid Burke) – The Court of Appeal of England and Wales released a judgment Wednesday detailing its earlier decision to dismiss an appeal launched by Lindsay Sandiford – a 56-year-old British woman sentenced to death by firing squad in Indonesia after having been caught with ten packets of cocaine in the Bali airport – challenging the Secretary of State’s decision not to assist in funding her death-penalty appeal.
Two days after being sentenced to death in late January, Sandiford appealed to England seeking an order compelling the Secretary of State to arrange for the availability of funds for an adequate legal team to assist in her efforts to appeal.
Specifically, Sandiford sought £8,000 – a discounted rate offered by the Indonesian lawyer of her choice. Having no funds of her own, she sought government assistance to supplement third-party donations she had been receiving.
Notably, Wednesday’s decision mentioned that she may no longer be in need of the govern…

Afghanistan: Surge in Women Jailed for ‘Moral Crimes’

Statistics from Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry indicate that the number of women and girls imprisoned for “moral crimes” in Afghanistan had risen to about 600 in May 2013 from 400 in October 2011 – a 50 percent increase in a year and a half. Since October 2011, there has been an almost 30 percent increase overall in the number of women and girls imprisoned in Afghanistan’s prisons and juvenile detention facilities.
“Four years after the adoption of a law on violence against women and twelve years after Taliban rule, women are still imprisoned for being victims of forced marriage, domestic violence, and rape,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The Afghan government needs to get tough on abusers of women, and stop blaming women who are crime victims.”
In a March 2012 report, “‘I Had to Run Away’: The Imprisonment of Women and Girls for ‘Moral Crimes’ in Afghanistan,” Human Rights Watch documented that some 95 percent of girls and 50 percent of women imprisoned in Afghanistan were accus…