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Q&As: Kirsten Han, anti-death penalty advocate in Singapore

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In the third of the DPRU's (Death Penalty Research Unit, University of Oxford, Faculty of Law) series of Q&As with death penalty experts from around the world, Kirsten Han, an anti-death penalty advocate in Singapore, tells DPRU Research Officer Jocelyn Hutton about her current work and about her involvement in the case of the recently executed Nagaenthran Dharmalingam . Can you tell us a little bit about the work that you do in relation to the death penalty? A lot of my contribution to the campaign to abolish the death penalty in Singapore has to do with storytelling, since that fits with the skills that I have as a writer and journalist, and because abolitionist perspectives, or any in-depth coverage of capital punishment, are missing from the local government-controlled mainstream media. I write about death row prisoners and the experiences of their families, try to humanise this issue. For many Singaporeans, it’s so distant and so abstract that it’s very easy to dismiss; so

Florida halts executions until Supreme Court considers controversial drug

Appeal to be heard from Okla. inmates in case citing signs of pain during execution

Florida's highest court put executions on hold Tuesday while the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether use of a controversial general anesthetic constitutes "cruel and unusual" punishment of condemned killers.

The state Supreme Court stopped the execution of Jerry William Correll next week because the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a challenge some Oklahoma inmates brought against use of midazolam hydrochloride as the 1st of 3 drugs used in lethal injections. Florida uses essentially the same formula, the court said in a 5-2 ruling.

The state switched to midazolam as an anesthetic in 2013 when some foreign drug manufacturers quit supplying other drugs previously used in executions. The Department of Corrections said 11 lethal injections have been carried out with midazolam in Florida since then.

Florida courts have approved midazolam, but the nation's highest court agreed Jan. 23 to hear an appeal by 21 Oklahoma inmates in a case citing prolonged executions and signs of pain reported in that state, Arizona and Ohio.

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga wrote that if the nation's highest court rules in favor of the prisoners, "then Florida's precedent approving the use of midazolam and the current Florida 3-drug protocol will be subject to serious doubt as to its continued viability."

Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissented, saying Florida should proceed with Correll's execution unless the U.S. Supreme Court stays it. Canady wrote that a stay in another state does not automatically require one in Florida, and that agreeing to review Oklahoma's use of the drug means the justices will forbid it.

Canady said Oklahoma agreed to postpone 3 pending executions, while Florida has not agreed to suspend lethal injections. Correll, scheduled to die Feb. 26, was the only Florida inmate with an active death warrant.

He also noted that lower federal courts have approved Oklahoma's use of the drug and said it is "purely speculative" whether the Supreme Court will reverse them.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, said the Supreme Court appeal is a toss-up.

"They might affirm it," Dieter said. "But it would be terrible to go ahead with an execution when the person's life or death depends solely on his having a date between the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case and its decision in that case."

Correll was convicted of the 1985 murders of his ex-wife, 5-year-old daughter and former mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Source: CBC news, February 18, 2015

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Q&As: Kirsten Han, anti-death penalty advocate in Singapore