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Showing posts from May, 2014

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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

Sudan to release woman sentenced to die for apostasy

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A Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for allegedly abandoning the Muslim faith will be freed within days, foreign ministry officials said Saturday.

She will likely be "freed within days", a foreign ministry source told AFP.

Abdullahi Alzareg, an undersecretary at Sudan's foreign ministry, told the BBC that his country was committed to upholding religious freedom and would protect the accused.

Meriam Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but who was raised by her Christian mother, was convicted on May 11 of apostasy for marrying a Christian and sentenced to hang for abandoning the Muslim faith.

Ibrahim, 27, was eight months pregnant at the time. She gave birth to Maya, a baby girl, on Tuesday while chained in the hospital wing of Omdurman Women’s Prison.

Her husband has said that Ibrahim identifies as a Christian and was never Muslim, and therefore could not have abandoned the faith.

Under sharia law, which has has been in force in Sudan since 1983, conversions are punishable by…

On Death Row With Low I.Q., and New Hope for a Reprieve

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MIAMI — For Ted Herring, who has spent 32 years on Florida’s death row for murdering a store clerk, signs of intellectual disability arose early and piled up quickly: He repeated first grade and got D’s and F’s through fourth grade. He read like a fourth grader at 14 and did not know that summer followed spring.
By then, a psychologist in New York City, his hometown, had declared him “undoubtedly functionally retarded.” Life was no less trying in his late teens; he could not hold down a job, and something as simple as transferring buses posed a challenge.
His intellectual disability was even obvious to a Florida judge, who found him “mentally retarded” and took him off death row 18 years after his original sentence. At 19, in 1981, Mr. Herring murdered a Daytona Beach 7-Eleven clerk, robbed the store and walked away with $23.84. But because Mr. Herring’s I.Q. scores were 72 and 74, just over the “bright line” cutoff of 70 used by Florida to determine intellectual aptitude, the Florida S…

I Spent More Than Six Years as an Innocent Woman on Death Row

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I was 18 when I was convicted of murdering my baby and sentenced to death, and 25 when I was finally found innocent.
I was 17 and living in Columbus, Mississippi, in 1989. One night, I went to check on my beautiful 9-month-old son, Walter. He wasn’t breathing. I scooped him up and frantically rushed to the neighbor next door, who could not help me. I ran downstairs where another girl took my baby, started CPR, and advised me what to do. I performed CPR all the way to the hospital. The CPR left bruises on his chest. At the hospital, the doctors said they had done all they could.
The next morning, I went down to the police station as I had been asked to do. When I got there, a detective yelled at me, “You know you killed your baby. You stepped on him with your feet and smashed him on the floor. You killed him.”
I was alone with no lawyer or parent with me. I told him I tried to save my baby. He wrote down what I said and threw it in the garbage. He yelled at me for three hours. No matte…

Ex-Marine Jorge Torrez formally sentenced to death by federal judge

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A former Marine convicted last month of strangling a fellow service member at an Arlington military base was formally sentenced to death Friday in federal district court in Alexandria.

The result was no surprise. Jurors had already recommended that 25-year-old Jorge Torrez face capital punishment for the 2009 killing of 20-year-old Navy Petty Officer Amanda Jean Snell, and U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady was bound by law to impose the penalty. He did so after a minutes-long hearing, saying Torrez had committed “unconscionable crimes” and no errors had been committed to invalidate the outcome of his trial.

Torrez confirmed with the judge that he planned to appeal the case — though he did so only after sighing deeply and asking for a moment to confer with his attorneys. He declined the judge’s invitation to speak on his own behalf.

“There’s nothing I’d like to say, your honor,” he said just before O’Grady imposed the sentence.

Torrez will join six other inmates from Virginia cases on fe…

Taiwan: Death penalty for kidnappings abolished

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The Legislative Yuan was to clear all legislation that has bipartisan consensus by midnight this morning after the last day of the current session yesterday.
The legislature spent most of yesterday clearing bills in its final meeting before the end of this plenary session.
A total of 82 items of legislation were scheduled to pass their second and third readings in the meeting, with reviews continuing late into the evening. Cross-party negotiation earlier this week scheduled the meeting to continue until midnight.
While the existing Criminal Code stipulates that a person who "kidnaps another to extort ransom shall be sentenced to death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for not less than 7 years" and that "if aggravated injury results from the offense, the offender shall be sentenced to death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for not less than 10 years," the amendments made yesterday scrapped the capital punishment from these 2 clauses.
The bill was proposed by t…

Official: Texas Can Keep Lethal Drug Source Secret

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Texas' prison system doesn't have to reveal where it gets its execution drugs, the state attorney general said Thursday, marking a reversal by the state's top prosecutor on an issue being challenged in several death penalty states.
Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor in the nation's busiest death penalty state, had rebuffed three similar attempts by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice since 2010. His decision can be appealed to the courts.
The department argues that the compounding pharmacy providing the drug should remain secret in order to protect it from threats of violence. Lawyers for death row inmates say they need its name to verify the drugs' potency and protect inmates from cruel and unusual punishment.
Similar legal fights are ongoing in other death penalty states, including Oklahoma and Missouri, but courts - including the U.S. Supreme Court - have yet to halt an execution based on a state's refusal to reveal its d…

Missouri AG wants to establish a state-run laboratory to make lethal injection drugs

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With the extreme secrecy enveloping Missouri's death penalty protocol coming under greater scrutiny, attorney general Chris Koster has come up with an end-around to using private pharmacies to develop lethal injection drugs.
Koster told lawyers at the Lake of the Ozarks on Thursday that the Missouri legislature should establish a state-run laboratory to produce its own lethal injection chemicals.
That, Koster says, would eliminate the rigamarole Missouri goes through to procure the drugs from pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies that are generally opposed to supplying their products for the purpose of killing someone.
That process has led Missouri to dark and largely unknown sources for its lethal injection drugs. The Pitch in January found out that Missouri was getting its drugs from The Apothecary Shoppe in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Apothecary Shoppe is a compounding pharmacy that St. Louis Public Radio later reported had a rap sheet of warnings and disciplinary action taken agai…

Ohio inmate seeking to donate kidney to ailing mom wants execution delay; 1st request rejected

A condemned inmate seeking to donate a kidney to his mother before his execution is requesting another reprieve after Ohio rejected his 1st organ donation request.
Attorneys for 40-year-old Ronald Phillips want the execution delayed until 2016. They say by then, Phillips' 66-year-old mother either will achieve necessary weight loss to have transplant surgery or will likely succumb to complications of kidney disease.
The state denied Phillips' 1st request, saying he didn't have time to undergo surgery and recuperate for his July execution. It was rescheduled to September after a judge ordered a 2 1/2-month moratorium on Ohio executions to allow arguments over new lethal injection procedures.
Phillips was sentenced to die for killing a 3-year-old girl in Akron in 1993.
Source: Associated Press, May 30, 2014

India sentences three rapists to death

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May 30, 2014: An Indian court sentenced to death three men who raped a photojournalist inside an abandoned textile mill last year in Mumbai, India's biggest city.
A fourth defendant was sentenced to life in prison, prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said. He said he asked for the death sentence under a strict anti-rape law introduced following public outrage over a fatal gang rape in New Delhi in 2012.
"This is the first case in India in which the death penalty has been given to convicts while the victim is alive," Nikam said. The three men were also found guilty last month of raping a call-centre operator at the same abandoned mill in July 2013, a month before the attack on the photojournalist. Nikam described the three as habitual offenders.
Judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi said the offence was diabolical in nature and the punishment would send a strong message to Indian society. 
Source: webmadam noelene, May 30, 2014

Arizona sets execution date for convicted killer Joseph Rudolph Wood III

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A July 23 execution date has been set for an Arizona death row inmate convicted in the killings of his estranged girlfriend and her father in Tucson nearly 25 years ago.

The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday set the execution date for 55-year-old Joseph Rudolph Wood III.

Wood was sentenced to death for the August 1989 murders of Debra and Eugene Dietz at the Tucson auto-body shop where they worked.

Appeals courts have upheld Wood's convictions and death sentence and the Arizona Attorney General's Office says Wood has exhausted his appeals and has no action pending in any court.

A defense lawyer for Wood is opposed to Arizona's intent to use midazolam and hydromorphone in a 3-drug protocol, saying the drugs were problematic during recent executions in other states. 
Source: Associated Press, May 29, 2014

Has the Supreme Court Finally Found Its Way or Will the Mania Continue?

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Freddie Lee Hall was convicted of murdering a pregnant housewife and a deputy sheriff in 1978, both gruesome acts for which he was sentenced to death. In 1992, however, at one of Hall’s many post-conviction hearings, a Florida trial judge found that Hall had been “mentally retarded all his life.” Still, the judge upheld Hall’s sentence.
Twenty years later, in 2012, after an unusually lengthy series of appeals and writs, the Florida Supreme Court also upheld Hall’s death judgment even though, as a dissenting member of the court noted, Hall had an IQ that measured as low as 60 and suffered from organic brain damage and chronic psychosis as well as having the short-term memory of a first-grader. He also endured a speech impediment and learning difficulties. Among other forms of abuse and torture suffered at the hands of his mother, other relatives and neighbors, Hall was tied up in a burlap sack as a youngster and swung over an open fire, suspended by his hands from a ceiling beam, bea…

Photos from a Botched Lethal Injection

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On December 13, 2006, the state of Florida botched the lethal injection of Angel Diaz. The execution team pushed IV catheters straight through the veins in both his arms and into the underlying tissue. As a result, Diaz, who was convicted of murder in 1986, required two full doses of the lethal drugs, and an execution scheduled to take only ten to 15 minutes lasted 34. It was one of the worst botches since states began using lethal injection in the 1980s, and Jeb Bush, then the governor of Florida, responded with a moratorium on executions.
Other states hardly heeded Diaz’s death at all. Since he died, states have continued to botch lethal injections: A recent study by Austin Sarat at Amherst College estimated that at least 7 percent of all lethal injections have been visibly botched. The most controversial was in Oklahoma this past April, when the state executed a convicted murderer and rapist named Clayton Lockett using a three-drug protocol, like most other death-penalty states. The…

Fall execution to be Oklahoma's 2nd since restart

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An Oklahoma inmate was scheduled for a November execution on Wednesday after telling a court he didn't want to be the 1st inmate sent to the death chamber following the review of a botched try in April.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set Richard Eugene Glossip's execution for Nov. 20. Glossip is second in line behind Charles Warner, who had been set to die the same night as a failed execution attempt 4 weeks ago.
Oklahoma changed its execution protocols in April, but a possible problem with a vein prevented lethal drugs from killing Clayton Lockett on April 29. The state prisons chief stopped the execution but Lockett died later of a heart attack. Oklahoma is reviewing Lockett's death to determine whether its new mix of midazolam, vercuronium bromide and potassium chloride played a role in his death.
Warner was to have died the same night, but the state agreed to a 6-month delay. Warner is to die Nov. 13 for raping and killing his roommate's daughter.
Glossip …

Judge orders temporary moratorium on Ohio executions

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A federal judge ordered a temporary moratorium on Ohio executions while legal issues related to new lethal-injection procedures are worked out in court.
The order, issued Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost, stops the scheduled July 2 execution of Ronald Phillips of Summit County and the Aug. 6 execution of William Montgomery of Lucas County. Two other executions scheduled later in the year are not affected for the time being, but Frost left his order open-ended.
Frost said an execution can be scheduled no earlier than Aug. 15.
“Naturally, we will comply with Judge Frost’s order,” said Rob Nichols, spokesman for Gov. John Kasich.
Click here to read the full article
Source: The Columbus Dispatch, May 29, 2014

This Pharmacist Is One of Greg Abbott's Biggest Donors. Here's Why.

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Greg Abbott, the Republican attorney general of Texas, has many of the usual suspects funding his gubernatorial campaign: Energy tycoons, construction company magnates, leveraged buyout moguls, sports team owners. But one of his biggest backers hails from an industry not typically known for bankrolling political campaigns. J. Richard "Richie" Ray is the owner of a compounding pharmacy, one of those loosely regulated entities that have been mixing up lethal injection drug cocktails for prisons as these pharmaceuticals have become harder and harder to obtain. According to a new report from the nonprofit Texans for Public Justice, Ray, the owner of Richie's Specialty Pharmacy in Conroe, Texas, has given Abbott $350,000 to help him defeat democratic challenger Wendy Davis.

Ray's big investment in Abbott comes as death row inmates and good-government groups are trying to force Texas to disclose the supplier of its lethal injection drugs, thought to be a compounding phar…

Al Jazeera America program due June 1 features Mississippi death-row inmate Willie Manning

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A new TV program featuring Willie Jerome Manning is scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday June 1 2014 (USA times: 9E/6P). The program is an episode in the Al Jazeera America series, The System, which sets out to examine the state of the criminal justice system in the USA. The episode that includes Willie, Flawed Forensics, focuses on the FBI’s faulty hair analysis and testimony. The episode also features a man, also originally convicted of multiple murders, who has been released and is waiting for a retrial.

When interviewed the director, Joe Berlinger, said the series tries to show all sides of an issue. He uses Willie’s case as an example:

“…it’s pretty clear that Willy Manning should have the opportunity for a new trial because the case was botched via FBI forensics handling. On the other hand, we don’t shy away from talking about the fact that he was not a good guy prior to his conviction. That doesn’t mean he should be sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit.

In addition,…

China: 55 sentenced at mass trial in Xinjiang, including 3 sentenced to death

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May 27, 2014: Chinese authorities used a public rally in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to sentence 55 people on charges including terrorism.
At least three people were sentenced to death. Others were jailed for murder, separatism, and organizing or participating in terror groups.
The official Xinhua news agency said 7,000 locals and officials witnessed the mass sentencing at a stadium in northern Xinjiang's Yili prefecture.
At the event, Yili Deputy Communist Party Chief Li Minghui said the rally demonstrated a "resolute determination" to crack down on what China calls the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism.
Beijing announced a year-long security crackdown following an attack that killed 43 people and wounded more than 90 in the regional capital, Urumqi, on 23 May 2014.
Following the Urumqi attack, China said it broke up 23 terrorist gangs and arrested more than 200 people in three areas of southern Xinjiang. 
Source: VOA News, May 28, 2014

Woman Hanged in Northern Iran; Mother in Law Carried Out the Execution

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Iran Human Rights (IHR) has repeatedly condemned the inhumane law of qisas (retribution in kind [an eye for an eye]), where the family members of the victim are encouraged to carry out the executions.
Iran Human Rights, May 28, 2014: A woman was hanged in the prison of Amol (Northern Iran) convicted of murdering her husband.
According to the state run Iranian news agency Fars, the woman was identified as “S. T.” and was executed early Thursday morning, May 28. She was sentenced to “qisas” (retribution in kind) and her mother in law (victim’s mother) carried out the execution, said the report.
Source: Iran Human Rights, May 28, 2014

Supreme Court strikes down Florida law on intellectually disabled death row inmates

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The Supreme Court gave greater protection Tuesday to death row inmates seeking to prove they should not be executed because they are intellectually disabled, and it ruled that laws such as those in Florida and Virginia are too rigid.

The court ruled 5 to 4 that state laws that draw a bright line on IQ-test results are unconstitutional. Under those laws, an inmate who scores above 70 on the test does not meet the first step of proving that he or she is intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for the death penalty.

Florida, Virginia and Kentucky have such laws, and a handful of others have similar rules.

It was the court’s first consideration of state laws defining mental retardation in capital cases since its 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia that executing the mentally retarded violated the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

In that decision, the court left it up to states to define intellectual disability. But those state determinations must meet con…

Saudi court sentences activist to death for sedition

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Riyadh: A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced to death an activist convicted of sedition, rioting, protesting and robbery in the district of Qatif, home to many of the kingdom’s Shiite sect who say they face entrenched discrimination.
The sentence, issued on Tuesday and reported by state media early on Wednesday, is the second time in a week the death penalty has been imposed on a Shiite involved in unrest in Qatif, located in the oil-producing Eastern Province.
The judge’s decision to apply the penalty can still be challenged in an appeal court, the supreme court and then by petitioning the king.
More than 20 people have been killed in Qatif since February 2011 when large protests erupted calling for democracy and equal rights between the sects.
Demonstrations have continued sporadically. Some funerals for local people killed by security forces have also attracted thousands of mourners.
The government has said most of those killed died in shootouts between gunmen and the security forc…

Singapore: Singaporean drug courier spared death penalty

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42-year-old given certificate of substantive assistance; will now serve life imprisonment and receive 15 strokes of cane
SINGAPORE — A 42-year-old drug courier yesterday became the latest to escape the gallows after a successful application to be resentenced under amended drug laws.
Yip Mun Hei, a Singaporean who trafficked 31 small packets of substance containing at least 18.43 grams of diamorphine, had received a certificate of substantive assistance for helping the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in disrupting drug trafficking activities in Singapore.
In the High Court yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng urged that Yip be resentenced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane instead of the death penalty for “substantively helping” the CNB.
The court also heard that Yip had proved that his involvement in the offence was restricted to transporting the drug and did not include any preparatory acts or offer to deliver it.
The Misuse of Drugs Act was amended together…

How to kill the death penalty

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Some abolitionists believe that Lockett's sordid death will one day be remembered as the death blow — as it were — to capital punishment. I am more skeptical. As long as the debate is about gruesome methods and individual cases, the death penalty as an institution may rise and decline but I fear it won't be definitively abolished. Activists have powerful arguments when they highlight the inhumane killing techniques, botched executions, the executions of people later believed to have been innocent, the egregious racial biases in the application of the death penalty, and the evidence that executions do not deter violent crime. But those arguments will not lead to abolition.
For that to happen, abolitionists and political leaders will have to speak about the death penalty in the clear language of moral principle. It is much more palatable to be against executions when the executed is innocent or had an unfair trial or is mentally unfit. It is more difficult to oppose the death p…

The Secret Shame of the Death Penalty

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Welcome to the macabre absurdity of the modern American death penalty. Of course, death by lethal injection became the standard method only because earlier methods — from hanging to the firing squad to the electric chair — were deemed too “barbaric,” not because the state was taking a human life, but because the method of execution offended the sensitivities of the public in whose name the killing is carried out.
By now, it is clear that lethal injection is no less problematic than all the other methods, and that there is no reason to continue using it. But capital punishment does not operate in the land of reason or logic; it operates in a perpetual state of secrecy and shame.
In most cases, it is conducted late at night, behind closed doors, and as antiseptically as possible. Were it to be done otherwise, Americans would recoil in horror, as they did after the debacle in Oklahoma. Mr. Bucklew’s unusual case shows that death-penalty supporters can’t have it both ways. If they want t…

Iran: Prisoner Executed; Four Scheduled to be Executed on Wednesday

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One man was hanged in Qazvin (west of Tehran) while four prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.
Iran Human Rights, May 27, 2014: One prisoner was hanged in the prison of Qazvin, reported the official website of the Iranian Judiciary in Qazvin province.
The prisoner was identified as Erfan and was charged with murder, said the report. The report didn’t mention Erfan’s age at the time of committing the alleged offence.
According to reports from the sources Iran Human Rights (IHR) has been in contact with, four prisoners of Rajaishahr prison of Karaj (west of Tehran) have been transferred to solitary confinement scheduled to be executed on Wednesday May 29. The prisoner are identified as “Jalal Ostadi” and “Jalal Azarmehr” frm the ward 1, “Alireza Ramezani” and “Ali Jabbar” from ward 2 of Rajaishahr prison. All the four prisoners are charged with murder.
Source: Iran Human Rights, May 27, 2014

Saudi man who shot at police patrol sentenced to death

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Court attributed capital punishment to the 'enormity of the defendant’s acts'
Manama: A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to death for shooting at a police patrol and learning how to blow up gas cylinders.
Other charges leveled against the man included “harbouring a wanted man for five days in his grandfather’s home and providing him with a machine gun, covering up for a group of riot inciters and failing to report them to the police, and purchasing three guns and ammunition,” the Saudi news agency and local dailies reported on Tuesday.
In pronouncing the verdict, the judge at the court in the Red Sea portal city of Jeddah said that the death sentence was a unanimous decision. He attributed the capital punishment to the “enormity of the defendant’s acts.”
The man, from the Qatif area in the kingdom’s Eastern Province, was arrested at Dammam airport as he was about to leave the kingdom for Iran, the daily said.
Saudi Arabia’s authorities have pledged a zero-tolerance po…

Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy gives birth

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The Sudanese woman who has been sentenced to hang on charges of alleged apostasy has given birth to a baby girl, her lawyers told The Telegraph.
“Meriam Ibrahim, 27, gave birth to the girl – her second child – in the early hours of Tuesday morning, in the hospital wing of the prison,” the newspaper reported.
Her case attracted worldwide condemnation after she was sentenced to death on May 15 in Khartoum for refusing to renounce her religion, Christianity.
The court did not recognize her 2011 marriage to her Christian husband. She has denied the charges of apostasy and adultery.
She says her Muslim father abandoned the family and she was raised a Christian.
“Her son, 20-month-old Martin, has been with her inside the cell since she was first charged in February. Ms Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, who is in a wheelchair, said last week that she was being kept shackled by the ankles in her cell,” the newspaper added.
Source: Al Arabiya News, May 27, 2014

New Hampshire: Senate rejects death penalty repeal

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May 22, 2014: The Senate has rejected a 2nd bid to repeal New Hampshire's death penalty.
The Senate took little time Thursday to reject repealing the death penalty, not wanting to debate the issue a second time this session. On a voice vote, the Senate refused to go along with the House and killed Senate Bill 202, which contained the death penalty repeal language from House Bill 1170, which remains on the table in the Senate after members deadlocked 12-12.
Last week, the House reiterated its desire to end the state’s death penalty.
The 1st bill stalled in the Senate on a 12-12 vote last month. The House then passed a 2nd bill repealing capital punishment which the Senate voted against on Thursday. The issue is done for the session; the state's death penalty statute remains unchanged.
Opponents of capital punishment said they are disappointed by the vote, but plan to bring up the repeal effort in a future legislative session.
The state's last execution was in 1939, when Ho…

Iran hangs key figure in banking scandal

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TEHRAN — Iran’s state media is reporting that a key player in the country’s biggest-ever banking scandal was executed here on Saturday.

The office of Tehran’s public prosecutor announced that Mahafari Amir-Khosravi, one of four co-conspirators given the death sentence in 2012 for their roles in embezzling the equivalent of $2.6 billion, was hanged inside Tehran’s Evin prison.

Among those accused in the case were executives at seven of Iran’s largest banks, and the managing director of the biggest one, Melli Bank, is still at large having fled the country soon after the details of the case were announced in September 2011.

Amir-Khosravi was convicted of forging letters of credit, proceeds of which were later used to set up a private bank.

Plans for his execution had not been made public and his death caught many by surprise.

Click here to read the full article
Source: The Washington Post, May 24, 2014

Iran billionaire executed over $2.6B fraud

TEHRAN, Iran (Associated Press) —A billio…