Posts

Showing posts from January, 2014

FEATURED POST

Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Image
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…

U.S. Seeking Death Penalty in Marathon Bombing

Image
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Thursday that it would seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, the man accused of killing and maiming people with homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line last year.
The decision sets in motion the highest-profile federal death penalty case since Timothy J. McVeigh was prosecuted and executed for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
The decision, however, is not cast in stone. In nearly half of federal death penalty cases, prosecutors withdraw the threat of execution before trial, typically because of a plea deal, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who had the final say on whether to authorize prosecutors to seek the death penalty, has said he personally opposes capital punishment, but he has authorized its use many times.
Prosecutors say Mr. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, built bombs out of pressure cookers and de…

Naeem Williams Trial Could Bring First Death Penalty To Hawaii

Image
Jury selection is underway for the 1st death penalty trial in the state of Hawaii.
Capital punishment was abolished in Hawaii in 1957, but the U.S. attorney's office is seeking the federal death penalty in the trial of Naeem Williams who is accused of beating his 5-year-old daughter to death in 2005.
Williams, an Army specialist who was stationed in Hawaii at the time, had obtained custody of his daughter, Talia, only 7 months before her death. The 2 lived in base housing on Wheeler Army Airfield along with Williams's wife, Delilha Williams, and prosecutors claim the young girl endured months of abuse at the hands of both caregivers.
In July of 2005, Talia died from blunt-force trauma to her head, and an autopsy report showed she suffered from "battered child syndrome."
Court documents reveal that Talia's room had no mattress, no blankets and no furniture, and that "blood spatters could be seen throughout the Williams residence." Talia's room had &…

Washington state to increase access to executions

Image
Washington state will allow witnesses to executions to see the entire process, including the insertion of intravenous catheters during a lethal injection, state officials told The Associated Press.
The new witness protocol, currently a draft that is in its final stages of approval, includes the use of television monitors to show the inmate entering the death chamber and being strapped down, as well as the insertion of the IVs, which had both previously been shielded from public view. The new technology has already been installed, and officials say the protocol will be finalized within the next week.
Through public disclosure requests, the AP had sought information about any potential changes to execution protocols. State corrections officials spoke with the AP about the new procedures this week. The change is in response to a 2012 federal appeals court ruling that said all parts of an execution must be fully open to public witnesses. That ruling was sparked by a case brought by the A…

Saudi Arabia beheads Indian worker for murder

Image
It marks the third execution so far this year; 78 beheaded in 2013
Riyadh: An Indian worker convicted of murdering a Saudi was beheaded by the sword in the Riyadh region on Thursday, the interior ministry said.
Mohammad Latif was found guilty of having beaten to death his sponsor, Dhafer Bin Mohammad Al Dosari, with a sharp object and then dumping his body in a well, it was quoted by state news agency SPA as saying.
A system called “kafala” [in Arabic] gives local sponsors control over foreign workers in the Gulf, often leading to disputes.
Latif’s execution was the third carried out this year in Saudi Arabia, which beheaded 78 people in 2013, according to an AFP count.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery, homosexuality and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under the conservative kingdom’s strict version of Sharia.
Source: Agence France-Presse, January 30, 2014

Missouri executes Herbert Smulls

Image
Missouri has executed a man convicted of killing a jewellery store owner during a 1991 robbery after the US supreme court denied last-minute appeals that in part challenged the drug used in the execution.
"After the United States supreme court vacated three separate stays of execution on January 29 2014, Herbert Smulls was executed for the 1991 murder of Stephen Honickman," said Chris Koster, the Missouri attorney general.
Smulls, 56, was pronounced dead at 10.20pm local time at a state prison in Bonne Terre after receiving a lethal dose of pentobarbital, the corrections department said.
Smulls did not have any final words. The process was brief, Smulls mouthed a few words to the two witnesses there for him, who were not identified, then breathed heavily twice and shut his eyes for good. He showed no outward signs of distress.
He was pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m., nine minutes after the process began.
The supreme court on Wednesday lifted a temporary stay of execution fo…

PNG: Justice Minister Says Executions Will Go Ahead this Year

Image
January 28, 2014: Papua New Guinea's Justice Minister says the execution of 13 people currently on death row will happen this year, despite vocal opposition from human rights groups.
Members of the country's Constitutional Law Reform Commission have recently returned from a tour to see how executions are carried out across the world.
Our correspondent in Papua New Guinea, Todagia Kelola, says that when Parliament resurrected the death penalty last year after a spate of sorcery-related killings and other violent crime, five methods of execution were written in: Lethal injection, electrocution, firing squad, deprivation of oxygen and hanging. He says the Constitutional Law Reform Commission has recently been touring countries including the United States, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia to try and decide which one of those options is the best.
"They basically went and checked out the death penalties and [saw] which one is the most appropriate one for Papua New G…

Arizona death-row inmate Gregory Dickens found dead in apparent suicide

An Arizona death-row inmate died Monday in an apparent suicide, state Department of Corrections officials said.
Gregory Dickens, 48, was pronounced dead after lifesaving measures failed, according to a news release.
Dickens was sentenced to death for his part in a double murder near Yuma in 1991. But, last week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, he was entitled to a new hearing in U.S. District Court to determine whether his first appeals attorney had been ineffective.
He was also the lead plaintiff in a 2009 federal lawsuit that challenged the state’s methods of carrying out executions by lethal injection.
Source: AZCentral, January 28, 2014

North Korea: Kim Jong-Un had his uncle's entire family executed

Image
January 26, 2014: the Seoul-based Yonhap news agency reported that all relatives of the executed uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had also been put to death at the leader's instruction.
Jang Song-thaek, the once-powerful uncle, was executed in December 2013 on charges of attempting to overthrow the communist regime, including contemplating a military-backed coup.
"All relatives of Jang have been put to death, including even children," one source said on condition of anonymity.
The executed relatives include Jang's sister Jang Kye-sun, her husband and Ambassador to Cuba Jon Yong-jin, and Ambassador to Malaysia Jang Yong-chol, who was a nephew of Jang, as well as his two sons, the sources said.
All of them were recalled to Pyongyang in early December 2013 and executed, they said. The sons, daughters and even grandchildren of Jang's two brothers were all executed, they said.
It was unclear exactly when they were killed, but they are believed to have been pu…

Iran: Two Ahwazi activists, Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Shabani, have been executed

Image
Iran Human Rights, January 29, 2014: Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Shabani have been executed.
According to sources Iran Human Rights (IHR) has been in contact with the two Ahwazi Arab activists Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Shabani have been executed.
Iranian intelligence ministry offcials have informed the families of the prisoners that the executions were carried out four days ago.
However, Ahwazi activists believe that Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Shabani were executed immediately after their transfer from the Karoun prison of Ahwaz.
Iran Human Rights (IHR) strongly condemns execution of Ahwazi Arab activists. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: the leadership of the Iranian authorities must be held accountable for the unlawful executions of the Ahwazi Arab activists. We once again urge the United Nations to send an independent fact finding mission to Iran to investigate these executions”.
On January 20, 2014, 13 human rights NGOs issued a statement calling to stop execution of…

Cameron warns Pakistan: case of mentally unwell death sentence Brit being taken “extremely seriously”

Image
David Cameron said today that he is “deeply concerned” about the case of a mentally unwell British man sentenced to death and that “the Pakistani authorities can be in no doubt of the seriousness with which we take these developments.”
Speaking during Prime Ministers Questions about the case of Mohammed Asghar, a 69 year old man from Edinburgh who was last week sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy, David Cameron went on: “we take this extremely seriously and we’re making that clear at every level.”
In 2010 Mr Asghar was sectioned in Scotland under the Mental Health Act, and taken to Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh. Shortly afterwards he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Just months later he was arrested in Pakistan on blasphemy charges.
Yesterday Mr Asghar’s lawyers were finally able to see their client after they were denied access to him since the sentence was handed down. Mr Asghar’s lawyers found him in an extremely fragile mental and physical state.
As a re…

Prison Guard Union Calls on Texas to Curtail Solitary Confinement on Death Row

Image
In a letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) obtained by the Observer, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3807 advocates for TDCJ to house death-row prisoners who pose the lowest security risk in cells with other inmates.
The union also calls for the prison system to introduce privileges such as work assignments, streaming television and technology such as computer tablets—all in an effort to reduce the psychological trauma of inmates and the potential confrontations with guards.
Studies have shown that isolating prisoners for long periods of time can have devastating mental health effects. I have interviewed inmates on death row in Texas who recounted stories of fellow inmates screaming out at night, lying naked in the recreation yard, defecating on themselves and even mutilating themselves with shanks—weapons fashioned from objects in their cell.
“Use of technologies such as computer tablets and streaming TV should be o…

Attorney: Louisiana DOC does not have execution drug

Image
Christopher Sepulvado is scheduled to be executed Feb. 5 for 1992 death of his stepson.
The Louisiana Department of Corrections does not have the drug needed to execute child killer Christopher Sepulvado on Feb. 5. But it is trying to obtain some, defense attorney Gary Clements said today
The problem with that is it violates the protocol that states the drug, pentobarbital, is supposed to be in DOC's possession 30 days before a scheduled education. "So they failed on that," Clements said.
Will this mean another appeal on Sepulvado's behalf? Clements doesn't know.
Late today, he was still reading through documents provided by the law firm of Shows, Cali & Walsh LLP, which is representing the corrections department, in response to a deadline imposed by a federal magistrate judge. The judge ruled Sepulvado and another death row inmate, Jessie Hoffman, should have the information they sought on the execution protocol.
Clements expects 1,500 more pages Saturday fr…

Italian MPs meet in India with marines possibly facing death

Image
A delegation of Italian MPs met in New Delhi Monday with Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, Italian marines who may face the death penalty in India for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen. 
"We are soldiers, Italian soldiers. We must suffer with dignity," said Latorre, who met the delegates at the Italian embassy. "We hope to come back with honor". 
The pair are accused of killing fishermen Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after allegedly mistaking them for pirates and opening fire on their fishing trawler while guarding the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie off the coast of Kerala on February 15, 2012. 
Italy has appealed to the Indian Supreme Court amid fears that India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) intends to prosecute the pair under a harsh anti-terrorism law that bears the death penalty, despite previous reassurances from the Indian foreign ministry that the marines would not face capital punishment. 
A…

Indonesian Brothers Released From Death Row in Malaysian Self Defense Killing

Image
Jakarta. Indonesian officials welcomed the release of two domestic workers sentenced to death in Malaysia on Tuesday, drawing to a close a protracted legal battle over the fate of two men who accidentally killed a home intruder during a scuffle at their employer’s home.
Brothers Frans Hiu and Dharry Hiu were sentenced to death in October of 2012 in a case that inspired outrage in both Indonesia and Malaysia. According to numerous reports on the case, the brothers were asleep in a Playstation rental shophouse in Selangor, Malaysia, when 26-year-old R. Khartic, high on drugs, broke into the room. He attacked the men, causing Dharry to flee the scene for help while his brother Frans grabbed Khartic by the neck and held him down.
The burglar lost consciousness and died while being restrained. The brothers, during their trial at the Shah Alam High Court, testified that they were attacked in their home and were acting in self defense when Khartic was killed. The court disagreed, sentencing…

US considers reviving old-fashioned executions

Image
Most states abandoned those execution methods a generation ago
St Louis: With lethal-injection drugs in short supply and new questions looming about their effectiveness, lawmakers in some death penalty states are considering bringing back relics of a more gruesome past: firing squads, electrocutions and gas chambers.
Most states abandoned those execution methods more than a generation ago in a bid to make capital punishment more palatable to the public and to a judicial system worried about inflicting cruel and unusual punishments that violate the Constitution.
But to some elected officials, the drug shortages and recent legal challenges are beginning to make lethal injection seem too vulnerable to complications.
“This isn’t an attempt to time-warp back into the 1850s or the wild, wild West or anything like that,” said Missouri state Rep Rick Brattin, who this month proposed making firing squads an option for executions. “It’s just that I foresee a problem, and I’m trying to come up w…

Prisoner Hanged in public in Qazvin (west of Tehran)

Image
Iran Human Rights, January 28, 2014: One prisoner was hanged in public in the city of Qazvin (west of Tehran) today Tuesday January 28, reported the official Iranian media.
Based on the official and unofficial reports Iran Human Rights (IHR) has collected, in the first 4 weeks of 2014 at least 61 people have been executed in Iran.
Mahmodo Amiry-Moghaddam, the Spokesperson of IHR condemned today’s public execution in Qazvin and urged the international community to react to the wave of executions in Iran.
The man who was hanged publicly today was according to the prosecutor of Qazvin identified as “H. Lotfi” (44 year old) and was sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court, convicted of smuggling 8 kilograms of heroin.
Hundrerd of people, among them minors watched the public execution. Iran is the country with the highest number of public executions. Iran Human Rights has urged the United Nations to ban public executions.
Source: Iran Human Rights, January 28, 2014

Missouri: Judge Rejects Execution Delay Over Use of Compounded Drug

Image
Lawyers for a Missouri inmate said Monday that they would appeal a decision not to grant a delay in his execution, arguing that the drug to be used was likely to be substandard, and thus could cause him severe pain, because it was produced in a compounding pharmacy not subject to federal drug safety regulations.
The condemned man, Herbert Smulls, 54, is scheduled to be put to death on Wednesday for the 1991 killing of a jewelry store owner. The decision to deny the stay was handed down late Monday by a federal district judge in Kansas City.
In her decision, Judge Beth Phillips ruled that simply speculating about unknown dangers associated with the drug was not enough to prove that it would cause “needless suffering.” But the judge also acknowledged that it had been impossible for Mr. Smulls to find out more information, saying it “weighs heavily on the court.”
Mr. Smulls’s lawyers say that Missouri’s Department of Corrections procured the drug, pentobarbital, from a compounding pharm…

Ohio: Did lawyer ask killer to put on ‘big show’ at execution?

Image
The inmate who gasped for air and choked during an unusually long execution process this month was urged by his attorney to put on a “big show” that could single-handedly bring capital punishment to a halt in Ohio, the head of the prison’s execution team says.
But those allegations were rejected yesterday by Ohio Public Defender Tim Young after a weeklong investigation following the Jan. 16 execution.
Public defender Rob Lowe, one of Dennis McGuire’s attorneys, returned to work yesterday after a weeklong administrative suspension after an internal investigation found “no wrongdoing,” Young said.
But three incident reports from prison staff members released to The Dispatch by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction tell a different story.
Two members of the prison execution team said they overheard McGuire talking with his ex-wife, Darlene Thomas, the day before the execution, describing what he had been instructed to do by his attorney when he began feeling the effects o…

La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos condena ejecución de Edgar Tamayo Arias en Estados Unidos

Image
27 de enero de 2014 - Washington, D.C. — La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) condena la ejecución judicial de Edgar Tamayo Arias, la cual tuvo lugar el 22 de enero de 2014 en Texas, Estados Unidos, en violación de sus derechos fundamentales.
En enero de 2012 fue presentada, en nombre del señor Tamayo, una petición alegando violaciones a la Declaración Americana así como una solicitud de medidas cautelares. La CIDH, mediante el otorgamiento de medidas cautelares, solicitó a Estados Unidos de ejecutar la pena capital hasta tanto la Comisión tuviera la oportunidad de decidir sobre los reclamos de la peticionaria. El 17 de julio de 2012 la CIDH decidió que el caso era admisible.
Luego de analizar el fondo del caso, el 15 de enero de 2014 la Comisión Interamericana adoptó el Informe No. 1/14 en el cual concluyó, entre otros, que el no respeto por parte del Estado de la obligación de informar al señor Tamayo de su derecho a la notificación y asistencia consulares prevista…

Support for death penalty climbs in Mexico amid murders

Image
The Texas execution of Edgar Tamayo for the murder of a U.S. police officer was heavily criticized by Mexican officials, who say their country rightly banned capital punishment years ago.
But if the Mexican people had their way, the death penalty would be an option for justice for murderers such as Tamayo, say surveys and criminal experts here.
Surveys by polling firms and media outlets in Mexico over the past seven years show that support for the death penalty has been increasing to a point where a majority would like to see it reinstated. Recent polls found between 70% and 80% would like to see the death penalty imposed for crimes such as murder and kidnapping, a rate that is above the majority support for the death penalty in the United States.
The rising support for the death penalty in Mexico comes amid the gruesome kidnappings and mass murders committed by criminals and drug cartels in recent years.
Tamayo's execution made front-page news in Mexico and protests were held in…

Americans Favor The Death Penalty, But Few Want The Executed To Suffer

Image
Most Americans favor the death penalty as a punishment for people convicted of murder, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. But the poll also finds that few people want to inflict unnecessary pain on those who are executed.
According to the poll, 62 percent of Americans favor the death penalty for people who are convicted of murder, while only 26 % are opposed. That support crossed party lines -- 87 % of Republicans, 58 % of independents and 51 % of Democrats said that they were in favor of execution as a punishment for murder.
The survey found that lethal injection is the most favored method of execution among Americans by far, and the only one approved of by at least half of Americans. 54 % of respondents said that they approved of lethal injection as a method of execution, including 44 % of Democrats, 50 % of independents and 79 % of Republicans.
But a significant number of those polled said that just because a prisoner should be put to death doesn't mean he or she needs t…

Japan: Cinema to hold 'death penalty week'

Image
A Tokyo movie theater will kick off "Death Penalty Movie Week" on Feb. 15, showing 8 consecutive films on the issue from Japan and abroad.
The movies to be shown at Eurospace in Shibuya include "Yakusoku" ("Promise"), a 2013 Japanese film depicting a death row inmate who is seeking a retrial over a 1961 mass poisoning known as the Nabari Case.
Overseas works include the 2010 U.S. film "The Conspirator," which focuses on the 1st American female death row inmate, who was convicted of conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.
The screenings will also include movies from Italy and South Korea, accompanied by talk sessions with a lawyer, movie director and other guest speakers.
It is the 3rd time the event has been held. The organizer, Forum 90, started it in 2012 to "provide people with information on capital punishment through movies at a time when many of them support the death penalty without knowing its true nature," accord…

One woman and two men hanged for drug related charges in Western Iran

Image
Iran Human Rights, January 26, 2014: According to the Iranian news website Arshnews two men and one woman from the villages of Delfan (Lorestan Province, Western Iran) were executed during the last week.
Two of the individuals from the village of Golestaneh were identified as “R. H.” and “M. Sh.” and were convicted of trafficking 6 kilograms of heroin, said the report.
According to this report another individual from the village of Abdolhosseini, was hanged in the town of Malayer convicted of trafficking 500 grams of the narcotic drug crystal. The latter individual was not identified by name.
Source: Iran Human Rights, January 26, 2014

How 2014 is turning into a deadly year for prisoners across the globe

Image
Edgar Arias Tamayo took 17 minutes to die.
The 46-year-old Mexican national was taken into the Texas execution chamber, strapped down and given a lethal injection which would eventually kill him.
He didn't have any final words to say, instead choosing to remain silent.
Tamayo, who was convicted of the 1994 shooting and killing police officer Guy Gaddis, 24, as he was being arrested for robbery was in the US illegally.
His execution went ahead despite objections from the US and Mexican governments arguing it violated international law, ignoring a 2004 court order from the International Court of Justice.
The ICJ argued that Edgar Tamayo, along with other Mexican nationals, was not informed of his right to seek consular advice without delay following his arrest.
This move denied him assistance that anti-death penalty advocates say could have provided crucial evidence in the case.
In 2008 a psychologist put Edgar Tamayo's intellectual functioning in the "mild mental retardat…