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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

Missouri executes Walter Storey

Walter Storey
A man convicted of murdering a young woman has been executed in Missouri after the US Supreme Court declined to intervene, officials say.

Walter Storey, 47, died by lethal injection on Wednesday in the town of Bonne Terre, said Mike O'Connell, spokesman for the state prison system.

Storey had been convicted 25 years ago of killing a neighbour, a 36-year-old social worker, by stabbing and beating her to death, after learning his wife wanted to divorce him.

His final appeal was rejected by the nine-member Supreme Court six hours before the execution.

Storey's argument was the same as those of three death row inmates in Oklahoma whose planned execution the court has in fact delayed and agreed to study.

Storey's lawyer, Jennifer Herndon, had argued that the lethal injection technique used was illegal on grounds of the unreasonable suffering it can cause to inmates.

She said the reasons that the court had agreed to study in the Oklahoma cases justified a stay for Storey.

In April the court is scheduled to take up the issue of execution by lethal injection.

It could ban the use of midazolam, a barbiturate used in executions and associated with suffering by inmates, if it rules that it causes 'cruel and unusual punishment' banned by the US constitution.

Midazolam is used as a sedative before executions in Missouri.

Executions are sometimes carried out in the US using it as part of a lethal cocktail that also includes the drug pentobarbital.

An execution in Oklahoma last year using midazolam in the case of man named Clayton Lockett was botched and the inmate was seen writhing in pain until he died.

'Missouri carried out 12 executions using pentobarbital since November 2013 and no observer has seen anything inconsistent with these executions all being rapid and painless,' said Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

He said Missouri's method using midazolam as a sedative makes it impossible to compare with Oklahoma.

The Supreme Court’s upcoming case involving lethal injections could reshape the way executions are carried out in the United States. In taking that case, the justices are also acknowledging that the lethal injection landscape has dramatically changed since they last considered the issue in 2008.

States including Missouri have scrambled since then to find the drugs needed to carry out executions, switching drugs and protocols and adopting new layers of secrecy. Missouri, for example, planned to use propofol, an anesthetic, but halted an execution and switched to pentobarbital after the European Union threatened to curb exports of the drug.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent that seemed to foreshadow that the justices would hear a lethal injection case, specifically questioned “states’ increasing reliance on new and scientifically untested methods of execution.” 

This was the eighth execution of the year in the United States and the first in Missouri, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre.

Source: SkyNews, February 11, 2015

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