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Innocent on Death Row? New Evidence Casts Doubt on Convictions

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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…

Pakistani hanging took place despite court’s stay of execution

Jail authorities in Pakistan have carried out the execution of a prisoner despite a High Court stay of execution, it’s emerged.

Local lawyers for Khalid Mehmood, a former Pakistan Air Force technician, have confirmed that he was hanged on Friday 9th January in Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, in defiance of a Lahore High Court stay of execution. The stay had been granted after the court called a Government witness to respond to arguments raised in the case at a hearing scheduled for Monday 12th. The jail authorities, however, ignored the order of the court and carried out the execution regardless. Two other prisoners in the same case were later hanged on 14th January.

Mr Mehmood’s lawyer, former Pakistan Air Force technician Colonel (ret’d) Inam ur Rahim, has filed a police report against the relevant jail authorities for their role in the unlawful killing.

A total of 18 prisoners have now been hanged since Pakistan resumed executions on 19th December 2014. Reports suggest that in at least three of these cases, there may have been evidence of innocence that was never given a fair hearing by the courts.

Lawyers in Pakistan have warned that Mr Mehmood may not be the only prisoner to face an illegal execution. Earlier this week, the authorities suggested that Shoaib Sarwar, who was sentenced to death following his arrest on murder charges in 1996, may now be executed following a ruling on Thursday by the Lahore High Court. His lawyers say any such execution would be illegal, as Mr Sarwar is a party to ongoing court proceedings regarding the legality of his sentence. Mr Sarwar may also have been a juvenile at the time of his offence, making the execution a potential violation of international law.

Mr Sarwar was not tried in a military or anti-terrorism court, but rather in an ordinary court for a non-terrorist offence. Mr Sarwar’s execution would see Pakistan going beyond its stated aim of executing only those it deems to be ‘terrorists’, opening up the possibility that thousands of other prisoners could now be executed.

Pakistan has the largest death row in the world, with over 8,000 people awaiting execution – many of them for non-lethal crimes such as drug offences, blasphemy, and adultery.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Sarwar, said: “It beggars belief that the Government of Pakistan would allow the jail authorities to take justice into their own hands, totally disregarding the orders of the High Court. There is no way that executions carried out in such an arbitrary and haphazard manner can be seen to be helping the law and order situation in Pakistan. The Pakistani Government must start playing by the rules, and this act of unlawful killing must be censured by the international community.”

Source: Reprieve, January 19, 2015

Related article:
- Pakistan hangs 19th militant since school attack, January 18, 2015

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