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Showing posts from July, 2013

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Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

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Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

Japan: Justice Ministry frustrated by delays in executing Aum Shinrikyo founder

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Justice Ministry officials are growing increasingly irritated over moves that have delayed the execution of a man held responsible for 27 murders and fears that gripped the nation in the 1990s.
Defense lawyers have filed yet another appeal for a retrial of Chizuo Matsumoto, the founder of the Aum Shinrikyo cult that spread nerve gas in public and killed its opponents during its reign of terror.
Matsumoto, 58, the blind and bearded guru who went by the name of Shoko Asahara when he led the doomsday cult, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in February 2004.
He was convicted of masterminding more than 10 crimes that killed a total of 27 people, including 12 in the sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 and eight in a sarin attack on a residential area in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in June 1994.
3 victims--an anti-Aum lawyer, his wife and their child--were murdered in November 1989.
The Supreme Court finalized Matsumoto's death sentence in …

Pakistan prosecutors to charge Musharraf over Bhutto murder

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Prosecutors at a Pakistani court will next week charge former military ruler Pervez Musharraf with criminal conspiracy and the murder of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, lawyers said Tuesday.
Musharraf, once the most powerful man in the nuclear-armed country, has been under house arrest since April. He appeared before the anti-terrorism court in person on Tuesday.
Indicting a former army chief would be an unprecedented move in a country ruled for more than half of its life by the military.
It would be seen by many as a far more serious challenge to the armed forces' power than his house arrest was.
Bhutto, twice elected prime minister of Pakistan, was assassinated in a gun and bomb attack in December 2007 after campaigning in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
"Pervez Musharraf appeared before anti-terrorism court today," prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar told AFP.
"Judge Chaudhry Habibur Rehman fixed the next hearing on August 6 for General Musharraf's indictment,"…

Former San Quentin Warden Woodford says death penalty almost dead

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To hear former San Quentin State Prison Warden Jeanne Woodford tell it, the death penalty is all but dead in California.
"The political consensus is that California's death penalty is on its way out," she told an audience of about 70 people Saturday in the auditorium at the Redwoods in Mill Valley. "The question remains when and how it will go."
The 61-year-old Woodford, who oversaw four executions during her five-year stint as warden of San Quentin, was a prominent leader in last year's narrowly defeated Proposition 34 campaign to replace the death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole.
On the eve of the election, a Field Poll showed the Prop. 34 initiative in the lead. It ended up losing 48 percent to 52 percent, a margin of just 500,000 votes.
She pointed out that public opinion has changed drastically since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, when 70 percent of California voters favored it. Since then, it has cost the state $4…

Sri Lanka President to pardon elderly condemned prisoners

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July 28, Colombo: Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed the Minister of Prisons Rehabilitation and Reforms Chandrasiri Gajadeera and the Commissioner General of Prisons Chandraratna Pallegama to take steps to provide relief to the elderly condemned prisoners.
Accordingly, the condemned prisoners who are over 60 years of age and who have been imprisoned for more than ten years will be pardoned.
Prison sources say that the documents in this regard are being prepared now.
Sources say that 15 prisoners of this category are in Welikada prison and some of them are ill.
Sri Lanka recognizes death penalty in principle but it is not implemented since the President does not endorse it. All death penalty cases have been commuted to life in prison and there have been no executions since 1973.
Although the government reinstated the death penalty in 2004 for murder, rape and drug trafficking following the murder of a high court judge, no execution has been carried out yet.
Source: C…

UAE: Janitor rapist gets death penalty

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50-year-old who raped seven-year-old girl on school premises sentenced to death.
Abu Dhabi: A man who was found guilty of raping a seven-year-old Emirati pupil on her school premises has been sentenced to death, the Criminal Court of First Instance ruled in the capital on Monday.
According to court documents, after returning home from school one day earlier this year, the victim displayed signs of sexual abuse.
“Her aunt who is accustomed to giving her a bath after school, asked her to remove her trousers. Upon refusing to do so, and after her aunt’s insistence, traces of blood and semen were found in the girl’s underpants,” Hussain Al Jaziri, the plaintiff’s lawyer said during the trial’s closing arguments.
The victim had been sent to the administration office to deliver some papers by her class teacher, who was believed to have left the country days before the defendant was arrested.
Seeing her walk by, the accused, in his 50s, who was also a former janitor at the girl’s private sch…

Ohio gov.: No clemency despite DA's plea

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich has rejected clemency for a condemned Cleveland killer despite a prosecutor's rare plea to commute his sentence to life without parole.
Kasich announced his decision Wednesday not to grant mercy to death row inmate Billy Slagle in his neighbor's 1987 stabbing death.
Attorneys for the 44-year-old Slagle had long argued he deserved clemency because he was just 18 at the time of the slaying and already a drug addict and alcoholic with a chaotic upbringing.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty had changed his office's approach to capital punishment and says he doubts it could obtain a death sentence for Slagle under today's laws.
Friends of victim Mari Anne Pope say sparing Slagle would have dishonored the jury's sentence.
Source: Associated Press, July 30, 2013

Saudi Arabia: Prison, lashes for liberal Saudi website founder; apostasy charges dropped

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Riyadh: The founder of a liberal minded website in Saudi Arabic has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes after angering Islamic authorities in the country, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Raif Badawi, through his website known as Free Saudi Liberals, had urged Saudis to share opinions about the role of religion in the country, which follows a strict form of Islam that includes harsh punishments for challenging customs. A judge in the Red Sea port of Jiddah imposed the sentences but dropped charges of apostasy, which could have brought a death sentence, the Al Watan newspaper reported.
Badawi has been held since June 2012. The newspaper did not name the judge who sentenced Badawi, nor did it say when the ruling was handed down. It was unclear Tuesday whether Badawi would receive any credit for the time he’s already served.
Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the US was “deeply concerned” by the sentence given to Badawi. “We believe that when…

Death penalty for Kenyan for killing UK man

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A Kenyan man was Monday sentenced to death for the September 2011 killing of a British man who was shot dead and his wife kidnapped by Somali gunmen at an island resort on the Kenya coast.
Magistrate Johnstone Munguti found Ali Babito Kololo guilty of the murder of British tourist David Tebbutt, 58, who was killed. Tebbutt's wife Judith, 56, was abducted and taken to Somalia and held by pirates before being released after 6 months.
Munguti also sentenced Kololo to 7 years in jail for the wife's abduction.
Kenya has not carried out a death sentence in the past 26 years and most sentences for death row prisoners are commuted to life imprisonment.
After the sentence was announced, Kololo said in Swahili, "I am innocent. Let the court do what it wants to do. I have been victimized in this, since I was also kidnapped."
Munguti said Kololo was convicted on circumstantial evidence after a total of 20 witnesses, including Judith Tebutt, testified in the case. The investigat…

Japan: Let Okunishi clear his name before he dies

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Okunishi Masaru has spent more than half his life on death row in Japan, knowing he could be executed any day.
In 1961, he was accused of poisoning 5 women and 'confessed' after prolonged police interrogation. He retracted his confession as soon as trial began, and was acquitted for lack of evidence. But a higher court reversed the decision, and sentenced Okunishi to death.
Okunishi's lawyers have repeatedly requested a retrial, without success. Okunishi is now 87 years-old and his health is failing him, he slips in and out of consciousness and is unable to breathe on his own. But he's desperate for a chance to clear his name before he dies.
Call on Japanese authorities to grant Okunishi Masaru a retrial
Together with Amnesty International supporters in Japan, we are calling on the Japanese Prosecutor-General to grant Okunishi Masaru a retrial.
Your name will be delivered to the Prosecutor-General by Amnesty International supporters in Japan.
Petition text:
To: Hiroshi …

USA: 9th circuit vacates death sentence of Arizona man

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A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the murder conviction and vacated the death sentence of an Arizona man for a 1995 killing in which he dismembered the victim and buried the body parts.
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Michael Joe Murdaugh should get a new sentencing hearing because he was sentenced to death by a judge in November 2001 and not a jury.
A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Ring v. Arizona held that juries and not judges must decide whether a defendant is eligible for the death penalty.
Calls to Murdaugh's attorneys for comment weren't immediately returned Friday afternoon.
Murdaugh, 59, was convicted of 1st-degree murder in January 2000. He was accused of severely beating David Reynolds and robbing him of $180 and a cellphone on June 26, 1995.
Reynolds showed up at Murdaugh's home after meeting Murdaugh's girlfriend earlier that day and exchanging phone numbers, according to court records.
The girlfriend told Murda…

Iran's Supreme Court Upholds Execution Sentence for 4 Young Arab Men

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With the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the death sentences of 4 young Arab men from Ahvaz on charges of "moharebeh" (enmity with God) and "corruption on earth," the prisoners are currently in danger of imminent execution at Karoon Prison in Ahvaz.
The 4 Arab citizens and their families were informed of the Supreme Court's decision on July 10. In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a human rights activist in Ahvaz who is knowledgeable about the case told the Campaign that the 4 men did not have any political activities and the only justification for these charges was a gun found during the search of the home of one of the suspects.
"In the summer of 2009, Intelligence Ministry forces arrested seven young men from the Shadegan neighborhood of Ahvaz. All of these young men were cultural activists and 2 of them, Ghazi Abbasi and Abdolreza Khanafareh, are poets who held poetry reading gatherings in Shadegan. The youn…

Hands Off Cain Presents 2013 Report on the Death Penalty Worldwide

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July 26, 2013: The presentation of Hands Off Cain's 2013 Report, ‘The Death Penalty Worldwide’, was held at the headquarters of HOC in Rome.
The worldwide trend towards abolition, underway for more than fifteen years, was again confirmed in 2012 and the first six months of 2013.
There are currently 158 countries and territories that, to different extents, have decided to renounce the death penalty. Of these: 100 are totally abolitionist; 7 are abolitionist for ordinary crimes; 5 have a moratorium on executions in place and 46 are de facto abolitionist (i.e. Countries that have not carried out any executions for at least 10 years or countries which have binding obligations not to use the death penalty).
Countries retaining the death penalty worldwide declined to 40 (as of 30 June 2013), compared to 43 in 2011. Retentionist countries have gradually declined over the last few years: there were 42 in 2010, 45 in 2009, 48 in 2008, 49 in 2007, 51 in 2006 and 54 in 2005.
In 2012, execut…

Top Executioners For 2012: China, Iran and Iraq

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July 26, 2013: Of the 40 countries worldwide that retain the death penalty, 33 are dictatorial, authoritarian or illiberal States.
Seventeen of these countries were responsible for approximately 3,909 executions, 98.5% of the world total in 2012.
China alone carried out about 3,000, about 76%, of the world total of executions; Iran put at least 580 people to death and Iraq, at least 129; Saudi Arabia, at least 84; Yemen, at least 28; North Korea, at least 20; Sudan, at least 19; Afghanistan, 14; Gambia, 9; Somalia, at least 8; Palestine (Gaza Strip), 6; South Sudan, at least 5; Belarus, at least 3; Syria, at least 1; Bangladesh, 1; Pakistan, 1; and United Arab Emirates, 1.
Many of these countries do not issue official statistics on the practice of the death penalty, therefore the number of executions may, in fact, be much higher.
This is the prevalent situation worldwide concerning the practice of the death penalty. It points to the fact that the fight against the death penalty entai…

Obese former death rown inmate dies in Ohio

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CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A convicted Ohio killer who sought to be spared the death penalty because he was obese died Thursday at a Columbus hospital of natural causes, an Ohio prison spokeswoman said.
Ronald Post, 53, who weighed more than 450 pounds, had been scheduled to be executed by lethal injection last January for the aggravated murder in 1983 of motel desk clerk Helen Vantz during a robbery.
The execution was commuted to life in prison by Ohio Governor John Kasich last December, following a recommendation by a parole board panel. The panel had found numerous omissions, missed opportunities and questionable decisions by defense attorneys.
Post had previously appealed unsuccessfully to stop his execution on grounds his extreme weight created a substantial risk that he would have a "torturous and lingering death" if executed by lethal injection.
Post died of undisclosed causes Thursday morning at Franklin Medical Center, Ricky Seyfang, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department …

U.S. assures Russia no death penalty for Snowden

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Eric Holder tells his Russian counter party Snowden would be tried in a civilian court.
Attorney General Eric Holder has appealed to Russia to extradite NSA leaker Edward Snowed by assuring Moscow that the U.S. would try him in a civilian court, would not seek the death penalty and would not torture him.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, again ruled out extradition for the 30-year-old former defense contractor, RT.com reports.
The promises came in a letter from Holder to his Russian counterpart, Justice Minister Vladimirovich Konovalov.
"The charges he faces do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional death penalty-eligible crimes," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Russian Minister of Justice Vladimirovich Konovalov.
In addition, Holder said that would be tried in a civilian court and "would not be tortured."
In the past, Russia has ci…

USA: Ariel Castro accepts plea deal to avoid death penalty, prosecutors recommend sentence of life without parole

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(CBS/AP) -- Ariel Castro, the Ohio man accused of kidnapping three women and holding them captive in his Cleveland home for about a decade, has accepted a plea deal that will spare him from the death penalty.
Castro faced 977 charges including rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder stemming from the death of an unborn child of one of the victims. An amended indictment includes 937 charges, an attorney said.
The terms of the deal offered by prosecutors call for no death penalty with a recommended sentence of life without parole plus an additional 1,000 years, attorneys said in court. A judge must decide whether to accept the sentence.
Castro pleaded guilty to numerous charges including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping as the judge, Michael Russo, read through the indictment.
"Because of the plea deal, I will plead guilty," Castro replied, as Russo asked how he would plead to an aggravated murder count.
Castro appeared in court wearing glasses and an orange prison jump…

Portugal speaks out against 500th execution in Texas

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Portugal has said it "profoundly laments" the execution of a female death row prisoner in Texas, who became the 500th inmate to be executed in that American State.
In a statement published on its website the Portuguese government said that while it "acknowledges the severity of the crimes committed" by Kimberley McCarthy, who was executed last month, and "sends it condolences to the victims' families", "Portugal reiterates its opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances, without exception."
"The death sentence represents an irreversible loss of human life, and there are studies that contradict its respective deterrent effect", it stressed. Portugal appeal to the State of Texas to "reflect on the application of capital punishment and to reconsider its application", as did the State of Maryland in March this year when it decided to abolish the death sentence.
Kimberley LaGayle McCarthy, 52, became the 500th inmat…

Vietnam May Return to Firing Squads Amid Shortage of Lethal Chemicals

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Vietnam may return to using firing squads to execute its growing number of condemned criminals after a planned switch to lethal injections last month ran into a shortage of the needed chemicals, state media and people familiar with the situation said.
The Ministry of Public Security, which runs the prison system, is seeking approval from the legislature to reinstate firing squads while awaiting production of lethal chemicals, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday. The ministry wasn't reachable for comment, but the Phap Luat Vietnam newspaper, which is close to the ministry, reported earlier this week about the request before the legislature.
"We don't know yet when the chemicals can be produced domestically, so using the firing squads for the time being is necessary given that the number of death-row inmates is rising," the person said.
Vietnam planned to start lethal injections in November 2011 using imported chemicals, but state media reported in May …