Innocent on Death Row? New Evidence Casts Doubt on Convictions

Rodney Reed’s death sentence was suspended. But researchers say other current cases raise similar doubt about the guilt of the accused.
The number of executions in the United States remains close to nearly a three-decade low. And yet the decline has not prevented what those who closely track the death penalty see as a disturbing trend: a significant number of cases in which prisoners are being put to death, or whose execution dates are near, despite questions about their guilt.
Rodney Reed, who came within days of execution in Texas before an appeals court suspended his death sentence on Friday, has been the most high-profile recent example, receiving support from Texas lawmakers of both parties and celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, who urged a new examination of the evidence.
Mr. Reed has long maintained that he did not commit the 1996 murder for which he was convicted. And in recent months, new witnesses came forward pointing toward another possible suspect: the dead…

Pakistan hangs 19th militant since school attack

Pakistan has executed a militant for his role in a 2004 sectarian killing, bringing to 19 the number of executions carried since a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in the wake of the Taliban school massacre in Peshawar.

Pakistan on Saturday (Jan 17) hanged a sectarian militant whose execution was cancelled but later reinstated after a court rejected a pardon from his victim's family, officials said.

The hanging brings to 19 the number of executions Pakistan has carried out since it lifted a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty in terror cases following a school massacre last month. Ikramul Haq, a member of banned Sunni militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was hanged in the central city of Lahore early on Saturday morning.

He had been sentenced to death by an anti-terror court in 2004 for killing a Shiite Muslim 3 years earlier. Police, prison officials and defence lawyer Ghulam Mustafa Mangan confirmed the execution.

The victim's family had pardoned him on Jan 8 just before his scheduled hanging, but a court later rejected the compromise. "The victim's family had pardoned my client, but the court rejected it and while we were appealing against the decision, my client was hanged," Mangan told AFP.

Murder can be forgiven under Pakistani law in exchange for blood money, while rival militant groups may choose to pardon each others' convicted killers. The United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Pakistan to re-impose its moratorium on the death penalty, which ran from 2008 until December 2014.

Rights campaigners say Pakistan overuses its anti-terror laws and courts to prosecute ordinary crimes. There are also concerns that death row convicts from non-terror related cases could be executed.

Taliban gunmen stormed an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar last month, killing 150 people, mostly children, in the country's deadliest ever militant attack. In addition to ending its death penalty moratorium, Pakistan has since moved to set up military courts to try terror cases.

Source: Agence France-Presse, January 17, 2015

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