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Showing posts from March, 2014

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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Chinese man gets death penalty for rapes of minors

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A man in eastern China was sentenced to death on Thursday for the serial rapes of 16 underage girls, some of whom he met online while posing as a teenage girl himself, state news agency Xinhua reported, a crime which shocked the nation.
Wang Yong, 40, was arrested in 2012 in Anhui province and charged with raping the girls, who ranged in age from 12 to 16, over a period beginning in 2009, the report said.
"Unemployed Wang posed as females on social communications networks such as QQ and WeChat to befriend schoolgirls, and coerced them to meet him. His victims were taken to hotels, where he raped them," Xinhua added.
Earlier this month, a court jailed his accomplice, also an underage girl, for three years, the report said.
Xinhua said his accomplice had claimed she was coerced by Wang to seek out victims for him.
While death sentences these days are automatically appealed for approval by the Supreme Court, Wang is likely to be executed given the nature of his crimes.
In Janu…

Taiwan's justice ministry resolute on capital punishment

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Taiwan's Ministry of Justice said Thursday that it will continue carrying out capital punishment lawfully and with discretion in spite of Amnesty International (AI) renewing its call for the abolishment of the death penalty worldwide.
Taiwan executed 6 inmates convicted of violent crimes in April last year. Another 52 remain on death row, though there is reportedly no timetable for carrying out their sentences.
Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang said their sentences will be carried out with prudence and under the country's existing laws once the ministry has made sure they have not petitioned for a constitutional interpretation or made an extraordinary appeal for retrial.
Defending Taiwan's treatment of death row inmates, he rejected comparisons with other countries because of "differences in laws and public sentiment" toward serious crimes.
He also said that families of the inmates are allowed to visit at any time -- though he did not directly address AI…

True story of one man's stay in Bali's hellhole Kerobokan prison

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Bali's notorious Kerobokan prison, which housed Schapelle Corby for almost a decade, is about to be exposed as a cesspool of corruption and lawlessness in a new book.
I Survived Kerobokan, by Australian resident Paul Conibeer, describes a jail where some guards were willing to turn a blind eye to illegal activity as long as they were paid off.
''Kerobokan is one of the only jails in the world where the prisoners are in control,'' Conibeer writes.
In June 2012, the then 43-year-old Blacktown car salesman headed for the island paradise to party and ''disappear into the alcohol-fuelled haze of the Bali bar scene for a couple of months'', as he had done more than 30 times before.
By August, following a series of unfortunate events - including being robbed outside a nightclub which led to a dispute over an unpaid hotel bill - the New Zealand-born Conibeer found himself in ''Hotel K'', surrounded by rapists, murderers and paedophiles. He s…

Japan: Hakamada fends off prosecutors

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The Tokyo High Court on Friday rejected an appeal by Shizuoka prosecutors seeking to overturn a district court’s decision to release Iwao Hakamada, who until Thursday had been the world’s longest-serving death row prisoner.
The Shizuoka District Court had also decided to suspend Hakamada’s death penalty and reopen the 1966 murder case.
Hakamada, 78, who was released from the Tokyo Detention House on Thursday after spending more than 40 years on death row after he was convicted of killing a family of four, was hospitalized Friday in Tokyo after a health check indicated he might have diabetes, according to his lawyers.
On Thursday, the lawyers issued a statement asking prosecutors not to file an appeal and asked the Tokyo High Court to reject any that are filed.
Hakamada was convicted of murdering the family of four in Shimizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, now part of the city of Shizuoka, in June 1966.
He was sentenced to death in 1968 and the sentence was finalized by the Supreme Court in 198…

China defends death penalty after scathing report

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Despite being criticised as the world's top executioner by Amnesty, China has defended using the death penalty as a deterrent.
China has defended the death penalty as a traditional deterrent, after a report said its annual executions has again far exceeded the rest of the world's combined.
Beijing judicially put to death thousands of people in 2013 compared to a total of 778 elsewhere, the campaign group Amnesty International said on Thursday in its annual report. It did not give a specific figure for China as Beijing considers the statistic a state secret and does not release it.
But foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei dismissed the study and highlighted policies to curb capital punishment.
"The relevant organisation always has biased opinions against China," he said at a regular press briefing.
"Whether or not a country retains the death penalty is mainly based on the traditional culture and specific national conditions.
"It meets the aspirations of the …

Soul-Searching as Japan Ends a Man’s Decades on Death Row

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TOKYO — Iwao Hakamada was a wiry former boxer in his 30s when he was thrown in jail for the killing of a family of four that shocked 1960s Japan. On Thursday, he limped from his cell on death row, a bewildered-looking 78-year-old who, his family fears, may have lost his mind in prison.
It took the courts nearly half a century to conclude that the evidence against him may have been fabricated by police investigators, and to order the retrial he sought.
With much of the evidence against Mr. Hakamada now discredited, the case rests on what his family and international human rights activists say is just such a flawed confession.
Mr. Hakamada has consistently testified that he admitted guilt only after an intense interrogation in which he was beaten with sticks, deprived of sleep and forced to urinate in a makeshift urinal in the interrogation room. Police records show the questioning went on for 240 hours over 20 days.
Mr. Hakamada retracted the confession soon after he made it.
“When so…

Amnesty International: Save Satinah Ahmad from execution in Saudi Arabia

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Time is running out for an Indonesian woman, in Saudi Arabia, who could be executed for the murder of her employer as early as 3 April.
41-year-old Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad confessed to striking and killing her employer, Nura al-Garib, in self-defence, after the woman attempted to smash her head against a wall.
Nura al-Garib’s family has requested diya (compensation or 'blood money') of 7 million riyals (AUD$2 million) in exchange for sparing Satinah Ahmad's life.
If full payment is not received by 3 April, the execution, possibly by beheading, will be carried out.
Foreign workers suffer greatly in Saudi Arabia. Some go unpaid. Some are beaten or even raped. If arrested, they're subjected to trials conducted solely in Arabic without translation and many have no money for a lawyer or family to turn to for help.
Without the resources to protect and defend themselves, migrant workers like Satinah Ahmad are at great risk of execution if they end up in the Saudi Arabian …

Pakistani Gets Death Penalty for Blasphemy

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LAHORE, Pakistan — A court here found a Christian sanitation worker guilty of blasphemy on Thursday and sentenced him to death, in a case that set off rioting and the torching of a Christian neighborhood last year.
That was the case in March 2013, when a Muslim friend of the condemned man, Sawan Masih, said that during an argument between the men, Mr. Masih had insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Two days later, enraged mobs swept through Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood in the city of Lahore, and set more than 170 houses and two churches on fire. 
A lawyer for Mr. Masih, 35, said Thursday that he would appeal the case to the Lahore High Court, which must sign off on death penalty cases. In a statement, Mr. Masih insisted that he had been falsely charged as part of a plot by businessmen to use blasphemy allegations to drive Christians from the land in Joseph Colony so that it could be seized for industrial use.
Although Pakistan has never carried out an execution under its…

Texas executes Anthony Doyle

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(Reuters) - Texas executed a convicted murderer on Thursday for beating a delivery woman to death with baseball bat, and stuffing her body in a dumpster, a Department of Criminal Justice spokesman said.

The 37-year-old was beaten with a baseball bat, then robbed of her car, cellphone and credit cards. 
Evidence showed Doyle ordered the doughnuts and breakfast tacos that Cho delivered. He shared the food with friends after stuffing Cho's body in a neighbor's trash can in an alley behind the home in Rowlett, east of Dallas.
Doyle shook his head and said nothing inside the death chamber in Huntsville when a warden asked if he had a statement to make. The prisoner's eyes closed as the sedative pentobarbital was injected. He took a few breaths, then began to snore quietly. Soon, he stopped moving.
No one from Cho's family attended the execution, but two witnesses picked by Doyle — a friend and a spiritual adviser — watched as he was put to death.
Anthony Doyle, …

Texas judge orders prisons to name lethal injection drug supplier

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(Reuters) - A Texas state judge ordered the department of corrections on Thursday to disclose the name of the supplier of drugs used in executions, a decision that adds support to calls for removing secrecy when it comes to lethal injections.
The suit was brought on behalf of two inmates scheduled to be executed next month and was filed at about the same time a judge in neighboring Oklahoma ruled on Wednesday that the state's secrecy on its lethal injections protocols was unconstitutional.
"The (Texas) ruling signals - as other courts have done recently - that it is unacceptable to keep prisoners or the public in the dark regarding how executions are carried out - including the source of the drugs," said Maurie Levin, an attorney for the petitioners.
The Texas Attorney General's office plans to appeal the decision.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a statement: "We are disappointed in the district court's decision and will be appealing the ru…

US couple gets 3 years in jail over death of adopted daughter

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Doha: A Qatari court on Thursday condemned a US couple from Los Angeles to three years in prison for causing the death of their adopted eight-year-old daughter.
Matthew and Grace Huang were arrested in January 2013 after their daughter Gloria from Ghana died and accused of causing her death in order to sell her organs.
The couple were also ordered to pay a fine of 15,000 riyals ($4,100) each and will be deported after serving their sentence.
But reading the verdict, the judge did not specify the exact charges for which the Huangs were sentenced.
They have two weeks to appeal.
“We have just been wrongfully convicted and we feel as if we are being kidnapped by the Qatar judicial system,” Matthew Huang said in a statement read to reporters outside the court.
“This verdict is wrong and appears to be nothing more than an effort to save face,” he said.
“We are calling on United States President [Barack] Obama to call the head of state in Qatar and explain to him why American families adopt…

Death for Qatari for killing British teacher

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Doha: A Doha court on Thursday sentenced a Qatari national to death for the murder last year of 24-year-old British teacher Lauren Patterson, a judicial source said.
A second Qatari, Mohammad Hassan Abdul Aziz, was given three years in prison for aiding the first convict, Badr Khamis Abdullah Hashim, in “burning the body of Lauren Patterson and erasing evidence” of the murder, the source said.
The men were arrested after the teacher’s charred remains were found by campers near Doha.
Patterson, who taught at a primary school in Doha, was last seen leaving the night club of a luxury hotel with two men, British media had reported. Her body was found soon afterwards.
In October, the interior ministry announced that Qatari security forces had made arrests over the murder, without giving details on the circumstances surrounding her death.
According to rights group Death Penalty Worldwide, the last judicial killing in Qatar was in 2003 when a murderer was executed by firing squad.
Source: A…

Amnesty International Study Finds Executions Rose in 2013

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Despite a long-term decline in the number of countries practicing capital punishment, publicly disclosed executions jumped nearly 15 percent in 2013 compared with a year earlier, largely because of “virtual killing sprees” carried out by the authorities in Iran and Iraq, Amnesty International said in its annual report on death-penalty trends.
The report, to be formally released on Thursday, said the number of publicly disclosed executions last year totaled 778, compared with 682 in 2012. The data excludes capital punishment in China, which regards information about the number of executions as a state secret.
Amnesty International, the London-based rights group that considers the abolition of the death penalty a top priority, considers China to be the world’s top executioner, killing more defendants than all other countries combined, but adds that reliable data is impossible to obtain.
In a statement released before the 2013 report’s publication, Amnesty’s secretary general, Salil She…

Arizona switches drugs used for executions

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The Arizona Attorney General's Office announced this morning that it will change the drugs used to execute persons condemned to death.
The new drugs, a cocktail of a Valium-like drug called Midazolam and a morphine derivative called Hydromorphone, will replace the single barbiturate, pentobarbital, which has become unavailable because its manufacturer does not want it to be used to kill people.
Consequently, commercially manufactured pentobarbital supplies have dried up for corrections departments nationwide, forcing them to change drugs or to have them custom made by "compounding pharmacies."
There are four Arizona death row prisoners whose appeals have run out and who are eligible for execution. But the Attorney General's Office has not asked the state Supreme Court to set execution dates for those prisoners because there were no drugs available to carry out the executions.
The Midazolam-Hydromorphone combination was used in January to perform an execution in Ohio…

Texas: 2 condemned killers sue for execution-drug details

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AUSTIN - Two condemned killers, including a onetime drifter who once claimed he killed 70 people in a cross-country crime spree spanning 19 years, sued state officials on Wednesday to force them to disclose details about the execution drugs that will be used to end their lives.
In a lawsuit filed in Travis County state court, Tommy Lynn Sells, 49, and Ramiro Hernandez Llanes, 44, alleged that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is illegally refusing to provide their attorneys with information about the powerful barbiturate pento­barbital that will be used to execute them, despite earlier court orders and attorney general opinions requiring that information be made public. 
The suit comes just days after Texas prison officials announced that they had obtained an additional supply of the state's execution drug, but would not disclose anything about the suppliers, manufacturers and other details about the drugs as they have in the past.
The case comes at a time when …

Oklahoma Told It Can’t Shield Suppliers of Execution Drugs

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An Oklahoma judge ruled on Wednesday that the state could not keep secret the identities of the suppliers of lethal-injection drugs, raising doubts about the executions of two prisoners next month and fueling a growing legal battle in several states over secrecy in methods of execution.
The state argued that a supplier-secrecy law, passed in 2011, was necessary because of a shortage of execution drugs and threats against companies that supply them. But lawyers for the two prisoners, Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, countered that without knowing the source of the drugs, courts could not determine whether the execution protocol satisfied the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and prisoners were denied the right to know, and potentially question, how they would be put to death.
Judge Patricia Parrish, of the Oklahoma County District Court, declared the secrecy statute to be an unconstitutional violation of due process in an oral decision from the bench.
The executio…

Iwao Hakamada Freed From Death Row In Japan After Record 48 Years

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TOKYO (AP) — The world's longest-serving death row inmate was freed Thursday by a Japanese court that found investigators had likely fabricated evidence in the murder case that put the former pro boxer behind bars for nearly half a century.
The Shizuoka District Court suspended the death sentence and ordered a retrial for 78-year-old Iwao Hakamada, who had been convicted in the 1966 murder of a family and was sentenced to death in 1968. More than 45 of his 48 years in prison have been on death row, making Hakamada the longest-serving such inmate, according to Guinness World Records.
Hours later, Hakamada walked out of the Tokyo Detention Center, escorted by his sister as dozens of media and supporters waited outside. Hakamada briefly looked at the crowd and got inside a car without speaking.
Hakamada was not executed because of a lengthy appeals process. It took 27 years for the Supreme Court to deny his first appeal for a retrial. He filed a second appeal in 2008, and the court …

Vietnam: Death penalty upheld for robber who chopped scooter driver's arm

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The Supreme People's Court in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday upheld the death penalty for a young man who chopped off the lower part of a woman's arm to steal her Honda SH scooter in late 2012.
The youth, 21-year-old Ho Duy Truc, was sentenced to death by the HCMC People's Court in December 2013 on charges of plundering property.
7 accomplices of Truc got jail terms lasting from 6 months to 20 years.
According to the indictment, Truc was the leader of an 8-member gang that committed 15 robberies in HCMC, using machetes to rob people of their vehicles and belongings, within the latter half of 2012.
Truc and his 3 accessories were arrested on November 24, 2012 after they attempted to rob 30-year-old Nguyen Thi Thuy of her Honda SH scooter when she was driving over the Phu My Bridge in HCMC's District 2.
Truc used a machete to slash Thuy's right elbow twice, leaving the woman seriously wounded, with 2 parts of her arm clinging together thanks to a piece of skin.
As Thuy …

Saudi Arabia: national beheaded for murder

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March 23, 2014: A Saudi man convicted of shooting dead a compatriot in a dispute was beheaded by the sword, the interior ministry said.
Mohammed bin Khamees al-Hantushi al-Enzi was found guilty of killing Ibrahim bin Marfu al-Enzi, the ministry said in a statement carried by the SPA state news agency.
His execution in the northeastern city of Hafr al-Batin brings to 12 the number of death sentences carried out this year in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Saudi Arabia beheaded 78 people in 2013, according to an AFP count.
Source: AFP, March 24, 2014

Maid on Saudi death row: $1.9 million 'diya' not raised

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Indonesia calls for clemency
Jakarta called Monday for a Saudi family to accept a substantial payment and halt the impending execution of an Indonesian maid on death row in the kingdom for murder.
Officials in Jakarta expect Ahmad, sentenced to death in 2011 for murdering her employer's wife and stealing money, to be executed in early April unless the victim's family accepts the money offered and forgives her.
Under Islamic sharia law followed in Saudi Arabia, the family of a victim can settle for 'diya' (blood money) instead of an execution.
However Indonesian Deputy Foreign Minister Wardana told reporters that contributions from the government and maid protection groups had not raised the required seven million riyal ($1.9 million), but only four million.
"It is now in the hands of the victim's family," said Wardana, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, appealing for them to accept the lower payment.
The Indonesian government had already succeede…

Missouri executes Jeffrey Ferguson

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BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — A death-row inmate convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing a 17-year-old girl in suburban St. Louis was executed early Wednesday in Missouri, marking the state's fifth execution in as many months.
Jeffrey Ferguson abducted Kelli Hall as she finished her shift at a Mobil gas station in St. Charles on Feb. 9, 1989. Her naked, frozen body was found 13 days later on a St. Louis County farm, and investigators determined she had been raped and strangled.
Ferguson, 59, was pronounced dead shortly after midnight at the state prison in Bonne Terre.
In an attempt to spare his life, Ferguson's attorneys made last-minute court appeals challenging, among other things, the state's refusal to disclose where it gets its execution drugs. Supporters said Ferguson, who expressed remorse for the crime, became deeply religious in prison, counseled inmates and helped start a prison hospice program.
"Society doesn't gain anything by his execution," Rita…

Nebraska: Republican Governor Debate

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On the campaign trail gubernatorial candidates have touched on the state's biggest issues like prison reform and Medicaid expansion, but Sunday at their 1st debate they went far beyond that.
All 6 republican candidates came together in Broken Bow Sunday for their 1st debate. There they were faced with some difficult questions.
It's been 16 years since Nebraska has carried out an execution. In 2010 the United States stopped producing Nebraska's drug of choice for lethal injection. Prison officials have still not found an alternative. These candidates say that solving this problem is one of their top priorities.
"We should be able to carry out the death penalty to make sure that it serves as that deterrent to the worst of the worst offenders. There's a recent article I believe it was in the Houston chronicle talking about what Texas is doing to change their drug protocol," said Bart McClay.
"When I was in the legislature I actually carried a bill to chang…

Indonesia Raising ‘Blood Money’ for Domestic Worker on Death Row in Saudi Arabia

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Jakarta. Time is running out for Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad, an Indonesian domestic worker sentenced to death for murdering her employer in Saudi Arabia.
Satinah, 41, of Ungaran, Central Java, is scheduled for beheading on April 4 if the Indonesian government fails to fork over the “blood money” requested by the deceased’s family. The central government has been in negotiations with the family of Nura al-Garib since Satinah was sentenced to death in 2010, reaching an agreement in July of last year to pay Rp 21 billion ($1.84 million) in diyat — an Arabic compensation paid to the families of victims in lieu of harsher sentences by the oil-rich kingdom’s draconian justice system.
The account is currently Rp 3 billion short, said Indonesian singer Melanie Subono — who has led the charge to raise funds for the imprisoned domestic helper. The pop singer has backed fundraising efforts for Satinah since writing about the woman on her blog last week. The woman’s plight has since inspired a T…

Washington pauses to reflect on death penalty

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Though capital punishment has always been a part of the United States’ history, its use was suspended from 1972 to 1976, when the Supreme Court found the death penalty was bordering on unconstitutional and qualified as cruel and unusual punishment.
By 1977 capital punishment was slowly being reintroduced by the majority of U.S. states — including Washington, which revised its statute in 1981 so only aggravated, first-degree murder convictions could qualify for the death penalty. Washington has executed five people since. 
Mark Larranaga, a Seattle private practice attorney and former director of Washington’s Death Penalty Assistance Center, said that’s reason enough to re-examine the state’s policy.
“The reality is, in 40 years we have executed five people, three voluntary — they waived their appeals,” he said. “Forty years is a pretty good chunk of history to do an assessment.”
Larranaga also served on the state’s Death Penalty Subcommittee of the Committee on Public Defense. …

Egyptian court sentences 529 Brotherhood members to death

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(Reuters) - An Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death for murder and other offences on Monday, in a sharp escalation of a crackdown on the movement that is likely to fuel instability.
Family members stood outside the courthouse screaming after the verdict - the biggest mass death sentence handed out in Egypt's modern history, defence lawyers said.
Turmoil has deepened since the army overthrew Egypt's first freely elected president, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, in July. Security forces have killed hundreds of Brotherhood members in the streets and arrested thousands.
Human rights groups said Monday's verdict suggested the authorities intended to tighten their squeeze on the opposition.
State television reported the sentences without comment. A government spokesman did not immediately respond to calls. Several government officials said they could not comment on judicial matters.
Most of the defendants at Monday's hea…

Abu Dhabi appeals court confirms child rapist's death sentence

An appeals court in Abu Dhabi upheld a previous verdict and sentenced an Asian man to death after he was convicted of raping an Asian school girl.
Witnesses had testified in court that the defendant had raped the child inside the school kitchen despite his denial of the charges.
Defence lawyer had demanded acquittal of the defendant on the grounds there was no concrete evidence of the crime.
But a medical report showed the girl had been raped, prompting the prosecutor to demand the maximum penalty for the defendant, according to the Arabic language daily Al Khaleej, which did not specify the girl’s age.
Source: Emirates 24/7, March 24, 2014

Japan: Death penalty upheld for woman; Court sentences 3 to death for baby's kidnap, murder

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The Matsue branch of the Hiroshima High Court upheld on Thursday capital punishment for a woman convicted of killing two men in 2009, based mainly on circumstantial evidence.
Presiding Judge Ihei Tsukamoto concurred with the lower court's ruling in 2012 that questioned the authenticity of her claims of innocence.
Miyuki Ueta, 40, a former bar worker, used sleeping pills to drug truck driver Kazumi Yabe, 47, who she later drowned in the ocean in 2009. She drowned electronics store owner Hideki Maruyama, 57, in a river that October. She owed money to both.
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An Akure High Court yesterday, sentenced three men to death by hanging for alleged kidnapping and murdering of an 18-month-old baby, Rachael Akingboye.
The convicts are Olusegun Obaro, Jonah Lase and Theophilus Friday. The trial judge, Justice Olusegun Odusola, in his judgment, said the 1st and 2nd accused persons were guilty of kidnapping and murder, while the 3rd accused person was only guilty of murder.
They had bee…