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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…

Saudi beheads wife killer, Syrian drug trafficker

Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia Tuesday beheaded a man convicted of murdering his wife, along with a Syrian drug smuggler, adding to a toll that activists called a "stain" on the kingdom's rights record.

Authorities executed Saudi national Awad al-Rasheedi following his conviction for stabbing his wife to death, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

"Because he had previous drug-related arrests and because he attacked the closest person to him, his wife, because taking a life is the biggest type of corruption on Earth and because he was drunk and under the influence of hashish at the time, he was sentenced to death," the ministry said.

He was executed in the Gulf coast city of Dammam.

Syrian national Mohammed Abdul Hadi Ahmed, who had been convicted of trying to smuggle amphetamines into the kingdom, was also executed in the northern Jawf region, the interior ministry said.

The two beheadings bring the number of executions in Saudi Arabia this year to 92, despite fierce criticism from rights groups.

According to an AFP tally, 87 Saudis and foreigners were put to death in all of 2014.

"Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

"The current surge in executions in Saudi Arabia is yet another stain on the kingdom's human rights record," Whitson said in a statement on Monday, calling for a halt to the "cruel punishment."

Rights experts say that according to international law if capital punishment is imposed at all it should only be for murder.

Under the conservative kingdom's strict Islamic sharia legal code, drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery, homosexuality and apostasy are all punishable by death.

The interior ministry has cited deterrence as the reason for carrying out the punishment.

Source: Agence France-Presse, June 2, 2015

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