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Iran: The death penalty is an inhumane punishment for death row prisoners, their families and society as a whole

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"Whether guilty or not, the outcome of the death penalty is the same. In Iran, the death penalty is by hanging, and it takes from several agonising seconds to several harrowing minutes for death to occur and for everything to be over."

Every year several hundred people are executed by the Iranian authorities.
According to reports by Iran Human Rights (IHR) and other human rights groups, death row prisoners have often no access to a defence lawyer after their arrest and are sentenced to death following unfair trials and based on confessions extracted from them under torture. 
These are issues which have been addressed in IHR’s previous reports. The current report is based on first-hand accounts of several inmates held in Iran's prisons and their families. The report seeks to illustrate other aspects of how the death penalty affects the inmate, their families and, as a consequence, society.
How does a death row inmate experience his final hours?
Speaking about the final ho…

Texas judge rules DNA tests probably would not have cleared convicted killer Henry Skinner

A Texas judge has ruled that DNA evidence probably would not have cleared convicted killer Henry Skinner of the 3 murders that sent him to death row.

Skinner, 52, was condemned for the 1993 New Year's Eve murders of his live-in girlfriend Twila Busby and her 2 adult sons, Elwin Caler and Randy Busby. Skinner, a verbally combative paralegal whose case gained international attention in anti-death penalty circles, consistently argued he had been incapacitated by alcohol and codeine when the killings occurred.

Skinner twice received last-minute stays of executions as his lawyers sought to obtain testing of dozens of pieces of crime scene evidence not previously tested. Among them were a bloody knife and bloodstains found throughout the victims' Pampa home.

A windbreaker that Skinner's lawyers contended might have been worn by the killer disappeared from police custody and was not subjected to DNA testing. Earlier this year, Skinner's legal team argued to Pampa state District Judge Steven Emmert that the killings had been committed by Twila Busby's uncle, who reportedly accosted her at a party shortly before her death.

In a 1-page ruling, Emmert ruled that it was "reasonably probable" that the new DNA test results would not have led to acquittal if they had been presented at Skinner's trial.

Skinner's attorney, Robert Owen, could not immediately be reached for comment. The Associated Press Wednesday reported the judge's ruling would be appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Source: Houston Chronicle, July 16, 2014


Ruling Goes Against Death Row Inmate Skinner

Hank Skinner
A district court judge ruled against death row inmate Hank Skinner this week, saying it was “reasonably probable” Skinner would have still been convicted of a triple murder even if recently conducted DNA evidence had been available at his 1995 trial.

Tuesday’s brief ruling did not provide details of the judge’s rationale. But it validated state attorneys, who had emphasized that the testing identified Skinner’s DNA at 19 additional spots in the crime scene — among them a knife used in the murders — while failing to provide new confirmation that Busby’s uncle had been there.

Skinner’s attorneys countered that the more than 180 new tests, which examined roughly 40 pieces of evidence, raised a variety of doubts about Skinner’s guilt and the state’s theory of the crimes. Three hairs found in Busby’s hand were identified as dissimilar to those of people living in the house and matched the DNA of a maternal relative. Such evidence, they argued, would have convinced a jury that at least a reasonable doubt existed in the case.

State prosecutors said the matches to someone on Busby’s maternal side of the family came from degraded DNA and could have a number of explanations. Defense attorneys, meanwhile, argued that Skinner’s DNA would already have been on many household items, including the knife, because he lived in the house.

The defense also said the court should have taken a look at a bloody windbreaker found at the scene, which police collected as evidence but the state then lost. The testimony of a witness who could identify the jacket as belonging to the uncle was not admitted as evidence, the lawyers said in a statement, criticizing “the overall unfairness of this process” and “bungling by the State.”

Click here to read the full article

Source: The Texas Tribune, July 16, 2014

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